Quality customer service has never been more important, as the internet has raised the stakes for retailers, delegates heard on Wednesday.

Marty Wikstrom, partner in private equity house Atelier Management, said that the ability for customers to be better informed as a result of the web and to vent their complaints more quickly than ever, meant quality of service had become even more crucial.

"There is a real need for product knowledge" she said, recounting a recent store visit where she witnessed a customer who was much better educated on the brand than the staff member serving her.

She said that the internet has upped the pressure on retailers to deliver as it is easier than ever for customers to express dissatisfaction. "Good news travels fast, bad news travels faster," she said.

In the same session, Brooks Brothers chairman and CEO Claudio Del Vecchio showed a presentation on the crcuial role of the iconic US formal brand's associates in projecting the right image to customers.