What would you say is the biggest issue facing retailers today?
The single biggest issue is getting traffic into shops or to visit websites. In this multichannel world, the shop is no longer the only focus so the challenge is to find ways of making your brand famous that in turn attracts the consumer. It is also about the challenge of understanding today’s young consumers because they are setting the tone and pattern for tomorrow.
78% of young people in the US say that they would rather shop in malls because they like being connected with the real world and yet they are the most connected generation ever with their use of tablets and smart phones. They like transparency on all things from brands. They can criticize but also praise brands in a way that is more powerful and challenging than ever before. We have to find ways of bringing together the physical, bricks-and-mortar world with the online world.
What guarantees success in today’s retail climate?
Everything is about innovation because it is increasingly difficult to get people to spend when money is tight. Having said that, we are in an era of consumption and that is not going to change. There are two different experiences of shopping: for needs and for pleasure. For me, Amazon delivers to a need and our approach at vente-privee.com is to deliver pleasure. The biggest challenge is therefore in understanding that to get people to spend money with you, you have to surprise them and make your products deliver pleasure and for stores to deliver an emotional, sensory experience.
What excites you the most about retailing at the moment?
It is the pace of change and the level of innovation that I see. In the future, all e-commerce or pure play will have to become multi-channel retailers and bricks and mortar retailers will have to embrace the online world. I am sure that even Amazon will already be thinking about ways of creating a physical space that delivers an experience to shoppers. Retailing is undergoing a massive experiment, embracing change and innovation which is truly exciting. At its heart though is today’s consumer who is more free, educated and open to information than ever before.
Which retail business do you most admire and why?
I admire any retailer that puts innovation at its heart across both the product and the experience of shopping. Retailers will have to create large experience stores to create an emotional experience that links the product and the brand. Apple is of course a good example to the extent that when you pay it feels more like you have an account with them. The brand is so powerful that you could even imagine them creating in-store Apple Coffee and you know people would want to drink it. Zara has always created beautiful shops. Topshop is like a living, modern gallery of the brand. And when I visit London I always visit the Harrods Food Hall because of the theater and end up buying more from around the store.