The focus was firmly on the future at Retail NZ’s first summit and SME forum. Retailers from around New Zealand gathered to share ideas and inspiration, ending the day with the awards and gala dinner.
International keynote Jonathan Reynolds, academic director at the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, was the first of the speakers.
When Reynolds discussed what experts believe the retail future will look like, the words ‘sales’ and ‘growth’ were at front and centre, but so, too, were concerns about the rate of change.
Significant features of the new retail landscape include ubiquitous customer intelligence supported by information searching; a slew of seemingly-contradictory customer behaviours such as mass versus personalisation; and new technologies that will lie at the heart of retail transformation.
Reynolds is unconvinced by the long-term viability of home delivery as it currently stands: “Home delivery is an inefficient and unprofitable distribution strategy for firms”.
He feels click and collect restores “some equilibrium into the system”.
Reynolds also discussed the way retail business models will change with the industry’s transformation. The increased costs required to operate an omnichannel ecosystem (IT, distribution, inventory costs) need to balance with new revenue sources such as renting, subscription services, peer-to-peer, sharing logistics and new functions of retail real estate.
As a best-practice example, Reynolds provided John Lewis Westfield of London. The UK department store retailer is turning 15 of its existing stores into “pilot stores” where it will test ideas, offering activations and services such as stylists, a demonstration kitchen and a ‘discovery room’. It’s also investing in staff to support this project.
While online growth will be crucial as retail evolves, Reynolds says re-imagining the retail store will also drive the industry forward.
He advised retailers to consider the bigger picture as they plan, looking at not just retail industry research but information about the way the world at large will change.
“Take considered risks.”
Other notable speakers included Liza Schillo, senior manager, global product sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co; a heavy-hitting CEO panel with representatives from Ballantynes, The Warehouse Group, Rodney Wayne and BVT Engineering; and Ezibuy’s Kevin Rowland.
Barrie Thomas, head franchisee for The Body Shop, closed the summit with a moving reflection on the retailer’s role in society.
“As businesspeople, we’re not divorced from the issues that face our community,” Thomas says. “Society’s problems are our problems.”