Change will be the central theme of the opening speech by Carphone Warehouse boss Sebastian James at this year’s Retail Week Live event.

Retail Week Live

How was Christmas 2014 for you? Did you enjoy a bumper sales period bolstered by a surge in online demand? Or did Black Friday unexpectedly pull forward your sales during the golden quarter?

In retail, as in life, January is a time for reflection but also for renewal. As analysts pick through the Christmas trading results retailers are already outlining strategies for the year ahead and the themes that will come to dominate the industry in 2015 are beginning to form.

Two such themes – change and disruption – will be central to this year’s Retail Week Live event, which takes place on March 11 and 12 at the London Hilton Metropole hotel. Speakers from leading retailers will look at the changing power dynamics in the sector and how disruptive factors such as economic instability, new technologies and ever-more demanding consumers require retailers to be more innovative, flexible and agile than ever before.

Retailers must adapt their business models to succeed in a time when the old boundaries between online and offline have been smashed and interconnectivity between channels is a necessity. But shiny new websites in themselves are not a shortcut to success in a digital age and many retailers are investing heavily in making sure their back-end operations are sufficiently sophisticated in order to meet increasingly high consumer expectations.

Event speakers

Change will be the central theme of the opening speech by Sebastian James, who is charged with successfully navigating the merger of two high street institutions – Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse – in his role as group chief executive of Dixons Carphone.

The coming together of these two businesses is indicative of the convergence of markets and consumer desire to have smarter interaction between their devices. James will discuss the strategy for the combined business and share his vision for a connected future.

As well as the main stage, where a succession of industry leaders including John Roberts of and Shop Direct boss Alex Baldock will deliver keynote speeches, four smaller stages will play host to breakout sessions on topics such as the consumer, retail strategy, operations and innovation.

Among the highlights on day two will be Neil Tinegate, head of digital innovation at Argos, who will discuss what in-house innovation labs can achieve, and Chris Moss, customer and marketing director at B&Q, on the secret to engaging with, acquiring and retaining customers.

One topic that will be discussed in detail is the evolution of multichannel retailing, and the implications for physical stores.

“Retailers must adapt to succeed in a time when the old boundaries between online and offline have been smashed”

Nick Hughes

Michael Mauler, executive vice-president of GameStop International, will give tips on how to maximise the relevance of bricks-and-mortar in an online world. Although Game Stop does not have physical stores in the UK, internationally it has been busy adding stores with new concepts such as Apple reseller stores in the US called Simply Mac and a number of Australian stores under its Zing Pop Culture brand, which specialises in selling collectibles – a growing part of the GameStop business.

Panel discussions

Throughout the two days, panels of top industry leaders will discuss the pressing issues of the moment. Once again the issue of change will be central to the discussion as the Co-op’s Richard Pennycook, Jim McCarthy of Poundland, and New Look’s Anders Kristiansen offer their own insights into how they have led change both in challenging times and in periods of growth.

Elsewhere, an all-female panel will consider the case for consigning boardroom quotas to history. Despite widespread acknowledgement of the dearth of diversity in senior management roles the increase of women being appointed to top jobs has not happened as quickly as desired and the question of whether quotas are purely a symptom of underlying inequality will be debated by a panel consisting of Ann Summers and Knickerbox boss Jacqueline Gold, Caroline Dinenage MP and Cilla Snowball, chairman and chief executive of creative agency AMV BBDO.

Of all the sectors experiencing transformational change, grocery is arguably in the greatest state of flux. There has been a structural shift in the market in past 12 months that has seen the space race come to a dramatic end and shoppers demanding convenience and value.

Promiscuous consumers are moving away from the single big shop and are instead looking around for the best deals and occasional treats.

Beneficiaries of this trend include disruptive discounters such as Lidl and Aldi and upmarket grocers such as Waitrose and M&S, but the squeezed middle – occupied by the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda – has become an increasingly difficult space in which to trade.

Delivering the closing keynote speech, Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe will share his views on how the established players can meet the changing needs of shoppers and what the sector can expect in the years ahead. He will also give an insight into his strategy for Sainsbury’s, which finds itself in a challenging period of trading following years of growth.

Brand building

This year’s Retail Week Live will look beyond retail for lessons on how to cope with today’s business challenges. In particular, it will tackle the subject of brand building.

Marc Mathieu, senior vice-president for marketing at consumer goods giant Unilever, will explore the role of the brand in an organisation and give advice on how to create a brand that stands out from the crowd.

Developing this theme, marketing guru and BrandCap chairman Rita Clifton will answer questions during a breakout session on why retailers need to start thinking like brands.

In an article for Retail Week last August Clifton explained why retailers needed to stop acting as retailers and start thinking like brands. “The reason is that category-think can lead to a competitive cul-de-sac on one hand, and nastily surprising competitive disruption on the other,” she said. “No brand is sacred any more.”

Shaping the future of retail

Retail Week Live is an unmissable event where business leaders gather to exchange experiences and ideas to shape the future of the retail industry. Now in its 24th year, the event attracts more than 1,000 people across two jam-packed days and features more than 85-plus inspiring speakers including:

  • Sebastian James, group chief executive, Dixons Carphone
  • John Roberts, chief executive,
  • Mike Coupe, chief executive, Sainsbury’s
  • Alex Baldock, chief executive, Shop Direct
  • Jacqueline Gold, chief executive, Ann Summers and Knickerbox
  • Richard Pennycook, chief executive, The Co-operative Group
  • Jim McCarthy, chief executive, Poundland
  • Anders Kristiansen, chief executive, New Look
  • Simon Roberts, executive vice-president of Walgreens Boots Alliance and president of Boots
  • Andrew Livingston, chief executive officer, Screwfix

Retail Week Live takes place on March 11-12. For more information or assistance in booking your place, please contact Andrew Falconer Borgars on 020 3033 4247 or email