Global Retail Summit 2010

Dawn Clark

Earlier this summer, the IGDS (Intercontinental Group of Department Stores) held their annual high profile summit in New York.  This is the one conference that attracts the CEOs of the leading retail companies from all over the globe into one place, to converge, discuss and debate the state of the world in retail. There were over 300 delegates from 36 countries – including 54 CEOs from the retail store industry. Last year it was held in Moscow, and the year before in London – next year it will be Paris. I’ve had the good fortune of being invited to join this group for their annual gatherings for nearly 10 years, since meeting Werner Studer, Executive Director, in Dusseldorf at Euroshop.

During the past decade, these conferences have become the most influential meeting of the retail minds — like the United Nations of Retail. This year, the participation and profile of the retailers was the highest and most passionate ever, led by Wendy Liebmann’s opening, in setting the stage for a “less is more world.” 

Wendy Liebmann, Roger Farah, William Lauder, and Lew Frankfort

“…it’s worth noting that all the insanity around us not withstanding there will be a moment when this age will start to make sense: that brave new world will look very different than it does now…” From The Age of the Unthinkable, by Joshua Cooper Ramo

Wendy is the leader of WSL Strategic Retail,  a provocative and incredibly astute retail research and forecasting firm of her own making – as well as a dear and lovely friend. Wendy’s reach and research is global, and she doesn’t always say what retailers want or expect to hear, which explains her success – and why they are all listening to her insights. Wendy’s advice to this illustrious group – the 8 1/2 ways to win:

1. Restate worth

2. Think small

3. Reframe value

4. Embrace the internet

5. Innovate discounting

6. Reinvent service

7. Romance the brand

8. Seize the white space

8 1/2. Be bold or fail

All of these points come with a great deal of detail and research from Wendy’s work. Some key insights: 1. The recession is not over – 63% of consumers are spending less, and do not want to leverage any more 2. Affluent women shop at discounters every day 3. New shopping centers are emerging without department store anchors (Space 15 Twenty in LA) 4. New global department stores are emerging (Amazon, Tao Bao) 5. Retail service propositions are being re-invented with new technology (i-phones, airport vending machines).

After some lively debate with key leaders, we heard from Roger Farah (President of Polo Ralph Lauren), William Lauder (Executive Chairman of Estee Lauder), Lew Frankfort (Chairman & CEO of Coach), Steve Sadove (Chairman and CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue) and many other leaders from the UK, Turkey, Philippines, India, Chile, Italy, South Africa, Thailand, and France. Leaders highlighted product innovation, emotional connections to customers, connecting to culture and heritage, social media, mobile technology, in-store technology, and enriching the store environments. As Steve Sadove echoed another retail leader “don’t let a good recession go to waste.” 

My biggest take away? The passionate retailer will win, and there is no room for less than complete laser focus on value, your customer, environment, speed, invention, and continual re-invention. The perfect balance of magic and logic.

On a personal note, I hope you will excuse my recent absence from the blog — I’ve been immersed in my new role as vice president of design for Starbucks Coffee International, including a journey around the world, for our work in 52 countries. A few of our new store designs are posted here. Here’s to a brave new world of passionate retail.

15th Avenue Coffee & Tea (inspired by Starbucks)