On the ground at 2015 World Retail Congress

JC Curleigh, World Retail Congress

James Curleigh, president of The Levi’s

The retail industry is witnessing a “ripping up” of the old business model and a new form of retailing has begun to emerge, Ian McGarrigle, chairman of the World Retail Congress, told delegates in his opening address at the event in Rome last week.

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The theme of transformation continued for the next three days of the World Retail Congress, as Inside Retail Weekly heard from leading retailers on how they are tackling the rapid change of the sector to an omnichannel model, and the challenges this unprecedented pace is presenting.

In his keynote opening on the first day of the Congress, Oscar Farinetti, founder of artisan food concept, Eataly, which attendees heard is set for rapid international expansion, said the same basics of retail still apply today, despite the digital disruption. “For me, the best and only ‘P’ of marketing is people. It all starts and finishes with people,” Farinetti said.

Kicking off his presentation by singing Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’, James Curleigh, president of The Levi’s Brand, spoke of how the 150-year-old denim brand continues to stay relevant. “The times have always been changing. But what seems to be different this time is that the stakes seem to be a little higher,” Curleigh said.

“Since the beginning of Levi’s, it has always been a journey of relevance. But relevance doesn’t happen through luck.It happens through purpose, it happens through vision, and it happens through keeping it simple.

“If Levis was a start-up, what would it do? It would be focused, energised, and it would use the precious resources that it has to try and build a global brand. Let’s challenge Levi’s to be the 150-year-old start-up.”

Other keynote speakers included Jonathon Alferness, global VP of shopping, Google; and William Wolfra, founder of Deal Dash. Delegates also heard from academics outside of the retail space, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web; Chris Roebuck, professor of transformational leadership; and Thomas Tochtermann, special advisor, World Economic Forum.

The Congress’ line-up of panellists also included Kip Tindell, co-founder and CEO of The Container Store; Andy Clarke, CEO of Asda/Walmart; Robin Philips, omnichannel and development director, Boots; Julie Hamilton, chief commercial officer, Coca-Cola; Jerry Black, chief digital officer, Aeon Group; Johannes Torpe, creative director, Bang & Olufsen; Luis Reis, chief corporate centre officer, Sonae; and Bulgari CEO, Jean Christophe Babin.

These panellists addressed issues from implementing an omnichannel strategy through to international expansion, customer loyalty, and building company culture. Bringing Australian innovation to the world stage at the Congress was Jodie Fox, co-founder and creative director of Shoes of Prey, who spoke to delegates on Shoes of Prey’s customisation model and the importance of personalisation.

UK-based Planet Retail also shared findings from its study in collaboration with the Oxford Institute of Retail Management at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School, which was officially launched at the Congress. The report surveyed 13,500 shoppers across 15 markets, including Australia, between April 2015 and July 2015, in a bid to understand the changing behaviours of shoppers.

“There’s a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’ in retail, but our data shows there’s no such thing as ‘normal’,” Planet Retail’s global insight and strategy director, Nick Everitt, said.

For more in-depth coverage of the 2015 World Retail Congress, including an exclusive interview with Planet Retail on its Australian findings, pick up a copy of the forthcoming November 2015 issue of Inside Retail Magazine.

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