From widening talent pools to fostering a creative culture, retail leaders discuss how they are rebuilding their businesses for a strong sustainable future.

We asked chief executives from leading retailers around the world how they believe leadership will evolve and how organisations should navigate this changing landscape. Here is some advice they gave:

1. Create a culture that inspires creativity and courage

“The challenge is to create added value for the consumer. There should be no restrictions on thinking.”

John Cloppenburg, managing director of German-based fashion retailer Peek & Cloppenburg

2. Always be a learner

“Through the course of the pandemic I’ve met a lot of really interesting people and been able to pick their brains. In times of change you really need to be a learner, to step out and have an outside-in view. It’s more vital than ever before.”

Erik Nordstrom, chief executive of US department store chain Nordstrom

3. Don’t confuse digital with strategy

“Digital does not equal strategy. Digital is an important channel of communication, and [provides] access to the consumer from a sales point of view. But there are other elements of traditional marketing — like value proposition, pricing, margin, etc. — that should not be forgotten.”

Jaume Miquel Naudi, chairman and chief executive at Spanish fashion retailer Tendam Retail 

4. Be a role model when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion

“Inclusiveness is an attitude of corporate leaders and diversified cultures are a result of that. Fairness is in the foundation.”

Liang Pei, chairman of the China Chain Store & Franchise Association 

5. Widen your talent pool

“If you look at the emerging talent pool for the next five, 10 or 15 years, it’s going to be increasingly diverse from a number of perspectives. You’re going to miss out massively as a business if you don’t look at the widest possible pool of talent. You also won’t know your customers. This should be at the top of every business’ agenda.”

Ken Murphy, group chief executive of Tesco 

6. Don’t discount the in-store experience

“We’re seeing a desire for human experiences that add value to people’s lives, which gets us thinking about how to evolve our business in a world where physical retail seamlessly works with a world-class digital presence, and shapes retail today and for a long time to come. Today, it’s a bigger hurdle for guests to get in their car and come to your store, so when they do, you need to make sure you’re delivering a great experience.”

Dave Kimbell, chief executive of US beauty brand Ulta Beauty

7. Above all, keep purpose as your North Star

“Be clear in your purpose and culture, combined with agility and innovation. We have 225,000 co-workers at IKEA and an additional 800,000 people working at our suppliers. I think I could wake any of them up in the night and they’d know the vision: create a better everyday life for many people.”

Jon Abrahamsson Ring, chief executive of the Inter IKEA Group