This year has seen the end for many retail businesses resulting in empty shops on high streets across the UK and unemployment. As many financial reports attest, these are challenging times – even for those businesses reporting strong growth. Keeping up with consumer demands and expectations requires retailers to really understand their customers – as a group, a segment and down to the individual level. This impacts every part of the organisation from product selection to ways to shop and how and where channels engage shoppers.
The retail industry needs to continually look at the innovation that’s required to stay ahead, the opportunities available and the skills required in what is a rapidly changing landscape. As Angela Spindler, CEO, N Brown Group, says earlier in this issue of InternetRetailing, “It used to be said of retail that if you stop innovating you go backwards but now it’s more a case of if you slow down you’re going backwards.” The industry is changing, but it is still retailing at its core, which is why IRC is looking at how retail and retailers can regenerate to become stronger and fitter for the new paradigms. Innovation, growth , customer engagement, beyond channels and delivery are all areas of focus at this year’s one-day event which is being held at The Business Design Centre in London on 11 October.
The Conference applauds those in the industry that are winning, either through overall business transformation, or individual projects which highlight how aspects of retailing can be carried out more efficiently, closer to the customer, across channels or in totally new ways, innovating for the new wave of retailing. Shop Direct, for example, has transformed from a catalogue business to the UK’s second largest pureplay digital retailer with annual sales reaching £1.93bn. Its digital department store brands Very.co.uk, Littlewoods.com, VeryExclusive.co.uk and LittlewoodsIreland.ie receive an average of more than 1.3 million website visits every day, with 69% of online sales completed on mobile devices. Very, its flagship brand, grew like-for-like revenue by 14.6% last year, on the back of 15.9% growth in 2016 and 17.4% in 2015. This hasn’t been achieved without changes and upheaval in processes, technology and staff.
Speaking at his first event since taking up the position of CEO at Shop Direct, Henry Birch will open the Conference as keynote speaker. Henry Birch was previously Chief Executive of Rank Group where he led the business through a wide-reaching strategic overhaul to create the UK’s largest multichannel gaming operator. Rank Group now has a fast-growing digital core with revenues up 15% and profits up 60% in the last year alone.
Panel discussions which include leading retailers and brands Missguided, Alibaba and Google will give delegates the opportunity to ask their own questions. However, while the industry faces similar challenges, each business is different and the answer to every change in retail cannot be found by sitting in a room of PR-approved PowerPoint presentations. Discussing the trends and issues facing the industry has always been the focus for IRC, but this year the approach is being taken a step further with more opportunities for delegates to interact, to share their experiences and learning and to be challenged on key issues.
Delegates can join round table discussions focusing on specific issues and be challenged by industry leaders to share experiences, discuss challenges and together come up with possible solutions, tactics and ideas to take away and try in their own organisation. In a fail fast world, sharing what hasn’t worked and why is just as important as projects that moved through to successful implementation. “Delegates at the InternetRetailing Conference will not just listen to industry leaders, they will learn and be challenged by them as they ask questions in round tables and challenge sessions. We want the audience to be tired at the end of the day because they’ve been fully immersed in the discussion and go away fitter for market and the changes ahead,” says Stuart Barker, Director, Internet Retailing Events. IRC is taking place at the Business Design Centre in London on 11 October. More details can be found at www.internetretailingconference.com.