There is a place for emerging businesses, as long as they make sure they stay closely in tune with what customers want, three rising stars told the Retail Week Conference.

RWC2010: Sarah Curran

Source: Phil Weedon founder Sarah Curran: “For a long time, the customer was almost forgotten.” founder and chief executive Sarah Curran said that for too long the customer was treated as almost an afterthought by UK retailers, and this has had to change.

She said: “For a long time, the customer was almost forgotten.”

Curran says that her customer service score is at 98%, but it is the other 2% she worries about.

While she believes that online retailers in the UK are ahead of those in the US in terms of the user experience they provide on their sites, Curran said they need to make sure that customer service is up there too.

White Stuff chief executive Sally Bailey was forthright that, with the exception of a few small businesses, the retailers who have gone bust during the recession were not offering customers what they wanted.

Bailey added that great product is a given, and suggested that it’s what you do on top of that that differentiates businesses.

“We give them things before they know they want them,” she said of her own customer base.

Dwell founder Aamir Ahmad said that proving why it is different to others in its sector is just as important to his bank as his customers. “Our bank has had a lot of furniture businesses go bust. We have to convince them that we are doing something different - not just financials but the business model.”