Retailing must find ways of battling issues the macro climate throws at it
As the World Retail Congress gets under way at Rome Cavalieri, Italy, its Chairman Ian McGarrigle, talks to Richa Bansal about the issues that will come under the scanner at the three-day conclave. The World Retail Congress will see big names from the retail sector thrash out new ideas, deliberate about new challenges and dwell at length on the latest innovations.
Omnichannel yes, but brick-and-mortar globally is feeling the heat from e-commerce players. What new strategies is the World Retail Congress (WRC) expected to deliberate upon?
The rise of online retailing via a growing number of channels is undoubtedly the biggest issue facing retailers. It is putting pressure on businesses with large numbers of stores to be able to trade profitably while building their digital platforms. But what retailers have been telling us and we imagine will figure strongly in the debates at this year's Congress, is that the challenge now is to make the retail operation completely seamless so that they have total visibility of stock, availability and sales. We are moving beyond just phrases like omnichannel towards a realisation that the customer sees the retailer as just one channel. How a retailer can get to this point is the real issue that will be discussed in depth.
As a keen follower of retail, how do you expect fashion retail to evolve in the next couple of years?
Fashion retail is one of the big battlegrounds in terms of pureplay versus traditional store-based retailers. It is already evolving rapidly as it has become clear that consumers are very happy to buy very personal selections of clothing online and that includes the luxury brands. The numbers of stores in the fashion sector will decline dramatically over the next few years, but equally they will not disappear. A huge amount of work and experimentation is going on to deliver new store formats that are engaging brand experiences that incorporate the latest technology and services such as click and collect.
Which are the countries that are now being seen as the next hotspots for fashion retail?
The US and Europe will continue to be centres of fashion and fashion brands, but Asia is equally important. China is undoubtedly a market to watch as brands begin to emerge.
Fast fashion is said to be contributing more to environmental devastation. What trends do you foresee in the years to come?
This is a huge issue which many of the fast fashion companies such as Inditex are very mindful of. Many are collaborating with initiatives led by global bodies such as the IFC to find new ways of delivering sustainable supply chains that increasingly their customers will demand.
What has been the growth strategy at the WRC since its inception in 2007?
When we launched the WRC in 2007, the biggest single issue was international expansion. India, China, Russia and Brazil were the big growth markets everyone wanted to learn more about or enter. The global recession changed everything and it came at the same time as the digital revolution. This has meant that the Congress has had to reflect a far wider series of topics and issues. Our strategy has always been and will continue to be that we should reflect the agenda of retail CEOs from across all sectors and geographies. We now have to include the new generation of disruptive, online retailers. But this is only right - the WRC is the meeting place for retail leaders from across the industry and this happens to be one of the most dynamic fast-moving sectors in the world.
How has the turmoil in the EU affected the WRC, and what steps have you taken to counter it all?
The EU is without doubt facing big challenges with the Eurozone and Greece in particular. We will be covering this in our discussions, but it is important to remember that retailing has to find a way of battling through whatever issues the macro climate throws at it in order to keep serving its customers and supporting staff. We saw it during the recession and we can only help retailers by sharing experiences and learnings that help the resilience of the industry.
Published on: 09/09/2015
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