It’s a bit of a mind fxxx!
After the success of day 1 at Retail Week Live one could have been forgiven for wondering if day 2 would live up to all the hype and expectation; we weren’t to be disappointed. If nothing else, the annual retail get together has become a cornucopia of all that is both interesting and stimulating in the industry. And Retail Week must be congratulated on once again assembling an agenda and line-up of speakers with which to whet the appetite. From our favourite bricks and mortar brand to more eclectic new kids on the block, the annual gathering in W2 never fails to deliver an inspiring mix of retail talent.
And as the very best example of this, Jigsaw CEO Peter Ruis shared with Sian Williams the journey he is embarking on in order to return the Jigsaw brand to its former glories. One of the ways in which he intends to achieve this is both inspired and inspiring and reflects the current innovative thinking we should embrace, characterised by some of our most well known brands. In the future, visitors to the West End and Mayfair in particular will, if Peter’s vision comes to fruition, have a new meeting place at which to relax, have a coffee or a drink, listen to live music, read the news……just spend time. Yes, this is the concept for the new Jigsaw Emporium. Such a vision for retail can only be applauded.
And in years to come perhaps Retail Week Live 2014 will be seen as a seminal moment in time in the retail industry; the overriding feeling I came away with from a 48 hour total immersion was that life is never going to be quite the same again. Why? For years we have listened to so much about the growth of multi-channel, which then became omni-channel, without really recognising the phenomenon we were describing and how it related to the consumer. The last 48 hours have put all that in context and a new perspective has arisen. One which not only describes the retailers’ challenge but most importantly how the consumer is now always on, connected, savvy and ready and willing to become immersed in a (retail) brand, but only on their own terms. This is huge and significant and marks a seismic change which many on the High Street hardly recognise let alone are willing and able to embrace.
But fear not, help is at hand. As always a guiding and steady hand on the tiller, John Lewis took centre stage on day 2 and Andy Street delivered the sort of keynote which sadly appeared to be beyond the reach of Philip Clarke. On the one hand the Partnership maybe perceived to be a morass of democracy, unable to decide which way is up, but on the other (a perennial dichotomy) a singularly focused, customer centric business which continually demonstrates the uncanny ability to buck the economic trend. Add to that the fact that in Andy Street’s words, John Lewis are now targeting younger, less affluent consumers can only be seen as a real threat to their competitors. We all felt the love for this most British of brands.
So what did 48 hours of Retail Week, treating us to something ‘reassuringly unpredictable’ condense down to? This materialised as perhaps the most inspiring, energising session of the entire conference and one which all retailers would do well to pay very close attention to. Who had even considered 10 year old ‘Generation I’ as being relevant to the conference before we heard from Chris Sanderson, chief #trendmeister! All I can hope for is that the likes of Andy Street, Philip Clarke, Theo Paphitis and all the other retail leaders gathered at W2 this year, were privy to the enlightenment which this closing session gave us. You think you know your customer? Think again. For 47 hours we heard all about multi-channel, omni-channel, mobile, customer experience, the connected customer etc etc. Then all this was turned on its head and we were suddenly introduced to the 10 year old Generation I. They don’t think like we do, they have no fear, technology is a part of their lives – just like breathing – they expect their actions and opinions to influence their experiences. The world to them is constantly changing and evolving and they expect to be able to interact and engage with it on that basis. And guess what? They are coming to a store near you. Soon.
It might seem like a mind fxxx but whether we like it or not, the future of retail is experiential and immersive; are you ready for it?