Last week was the seventh annual World Retail Congress. For the past few years, the elephant in the room was undoubtedly the economy.
Last week was the seventh annual World Retail Congress.
For the past few years, the elephant in the room was undoubtedly the economy. There was always the sense that for many retailers in the West, sheer survival was the name of the game, even though they knew they had to also focus on online and other fundamentals.
But last week in Paris, it felt as though things had moved forward. Nobody was ignoring the reality of the economic situation, even though research was finally pointing towards a rise in optimism.
It felt as though everyone was accepting today’s cliché that this is ‘the new normal’, and are now turning their attentions to the bigger issue of omnichannel.
This was summed up best by Kingfisher boss Ian Cheshire. He stated that “the model of retailing is fundamentally changing now” and that for a business such as Kingfisher, operating in a spread of countries, where the economies
are flat, the priority is winning market share, and in growth economies it is about establishing yourself fast.
What unites all markets though, he said, was that in today’s interconnected world, all consumers are aware of key trends and influences.
However, what became apparent over the three days of the congress was that the real glue or constant in among massive change was the importance of brands and the need for great product.
That is ultimately what consumers are attracted to and will believe in. Channels, as everyone from Mindy Grossman of HSNi to the ultra-charismatic founder of vente-privee.com, Jacques-Antoine Granjon, said, are irrelevant now. It is about having great product first.
The final word has to go to Louis Vuitton’s former chairman, Yves Carcelle, who delivered a masterclass in brands relevant to all. “If you own a luxury brand you have to believe it is for an eternity,” he said. “But history without innovation is boring. Innovation is real creativity in all areas of the brand from product to service to stores.”
It was a message no-one disagreed with.
- Ian McGarrigle Director, World Retail Congress