Jun 14 2023
RETALES, from retailers to retailers, with Ian McGarrigle | Episode 9
In this episode of Retales, from retailers to retailers, we discuss how to embrace change in today’s retail landscape. To delve deeper into this topic, we interview Ian McGarrigle, a journalist and editor who has been communicating about retail for many years. In 2007 he founded the World Retail Congress, of which he is also chairman, the annual rendez-vous that brings together top retailers from around the world to talk about where retail is headed.
The meeting point was born out of the “need to bring retailers together” and offer a “helicopter view of where retail is,” our guest tells us. And the retail situation has changed a lot since the congress was first held. In the beginning, “it was about growth and expansion,” but now, the concerns are different.
This year, “accepting uncertain times, difficult times,” was the most popular point of view, according to McGarrigle. Another unsurprisingly talked-about theme has been the adoption of technology and the seamless blending of online and offline. “Make that omnichannel model work is probably one of the biggest challenges they [retailers] are facing for sure,” he underlines.
Our guest also highlighted another challenge, less talked about, but just as important. “There’s a trend we’ve been hearing about that the workforce is changing.” The new generation entering the retail labor market has other demands, “they are less accepting of businesses that don’t stand by what they believe in, or don’t listen to them, don’t give them the opportunity.”
“We have to learn to be more agile,” McGarrigle proposes as a response to uncertainty and change. Although, according to our guest, it’s an attribute that all retailers have at heart. Proof of this is the times of crisis, when “everyone did it without thinking about it”.
McGarrigle also points to resilience. “Many retailers say that they didn’t know of a more challenging time,” he explains. “This is where AI and technologies are starting to come in to make business and enable them to be more efficient. […] They can help retailers in terms of how they buy better, how they manage their store, how they bring great efficiency into the business to build that resilience,” he says.
Technologies such as AI, moreover, not only allow to optimize efficiency in retail operations, it is also a way to get to know consumers better and create personalized experiences. Now, “the consumer is in the driving seat,” and “technology and data allow us to put the consumer at the center of everything,” says McGarrigle.
Resilience, agility, as well as “learning from each other and working with each other in some of the big challenges.” Either way, according to our guest, “you have to move forward and you have to take risks” to do so. Because, “great retailers are the ones who keep moving forward”.
Listen to the full conversation to find out everything Ian McGarrigle shared with us. The full transcript of the episode is also available. And don’t forget to subscribe and share this episode of RETALES, retailer to retailer.
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Adara: Hello everyone and welcome to RETALES: from retailers to retailers. The podcasts where we deep dive into the retail industry with leading experts who share with us their experiences, knowledge and predictions. I am Adara Gonzalez CRO at Orquest.
In this episode, we’ll be chatting with a long time retail insider, who has been in the industry for over three decades. And for many years, he has been communicating about retail as a journalist, editor and publisher. In 2007 he founded the World Retail Congress, one of the most relevant platforms in the industry that unites senior retailers from across the globe where he’s also chairman. Ian McGarrigle, welcome. i’m very pleased to have you here at RETALES.
Ian: Thank you very much for the invitation. I’m delighted to be here.
Adara: Super great. Let’s talk retail then. Let’s start with the Word Retail Congress. First, I want to thank you Ian, for creating such a wonderful environment for the industry together and for engaging in meaningful conversations that inspire us as we move forward. You founded this event, which is a reference meeting point for the retail world, bringing together different key players and setting the agenda for greater stand, How was this idea born? What was your vision? And why is it so important to have this conference in their retail agenda?
Ian: Thank you again. When I think back to that time, when I was bringing the idea together for the Congress, the retail world was a very different place to what we see and experience today. But back then, this was in the early 2000s. I mean, as you said in your instruction, I was then publishing director for some retail events and publications like Retail Week in the UK. But at that time, we could see what to begin with, the UK retailers were going across borders and were really rapidly internationalizing their business and we started looking at that. I became really interested in that as a trend because it was truly a Global Trend. We could see that retailers in many particular developed retail markets, we’re looking for new opportunities in other established markets but there’s a lot of excitement at that time in the development of China and India, Latin America.
So it was really the beginning of that internationalization of retail, which really, as we thought even at the time, retail was probably the last big business sector to take that international leave while other sectors along established as international globalized sectors, you know, like automotive, pharmaceuticals… So it was that classic thing of seeing there was a need and an opportunity to bring retailers together and I spent several years just talking to retailers and developing the idea and created the World Retail Congress from that. Because what they really wanted was that opportunity to take that helicopter view, as you might describe it, of where the industry is in any given year. What are the big topics? How could they benefit from learning from each other? Because I’ve always found, here in the UK, when I was working on a title such as Retail Week, which covers all sectors of retail, it’s always been fascinating to me that if you take away the product sector, the key drivers of success or the challenges are very similar. You know, what makes retail successful? What you need to focus on…So I guess taking that to an international level was really quite striking that talking to retailers in Latin America, and North America, Europe, Africa. The key drivers of success are the same. So that opportunity to bring retailers together to learn from each other, to take a snapshot each year of where the industry is, was very powerful. And that’s really what we saw.
Adara: That’s awesome. I mean, I can only imagine, you know, how many conversations you have had in this decade and.. how insightful is that? So, the first Word Retail Congress was held in 2017 as you said, and took place in Barcelona.
Ian: It did it. Absolutely. So it was great this year. We’ve just recently held the 2023 Congress, which was back in Barcelona and was really, really successful. And Spain has been a good home for many years. We were three years in Barcelona to begin with and we were in Madrid in 2018 and then this year in Barcelona. But yeah. So as you say, we launched in Barcelona over three years ago.
Adara: Nice, very nice, and other editions were held in Rome, Paris and Amsterdam. You know it’s a great thing that it kind of moves around different places.
Ian: Yes. Yeah, I mean really, that’s become an important part of the World Retail Congress. Retailers love to find and discover new places. The idea initially was to be in one place and that will be our home, but the feedback from retailers that they really wanted to keep it moving, which is also a challenge for us as organizers. But actually, it does make it exciting and a key part is to choose somewhere that’s got great facilities obviously but also, retail is an important part of that host city like Barcelona, Madrid, we’ve been in Dubai as well. You know, all of them are great retail cities and that’s an important part of the mix. We have events within the whole city, not just in the Congress venue. So that’s an important part of the other success of the Congress.
Adara: Yeah. And it is more fun too.
Ian: Absolutely. Yeah.
Adara: So, over all these years, how would you say that retail and the challenges retailers face have changed between that first edition and this one? I know it’s a big question but…
Ian: As I mentioned, when I was building the idea, the retail world was focused on very different things. It was absolutely about growth and expansion. International expansion.
That was the key issue. So we launched in 2007 and within 12 months, we had the global banking financial crisis so we had to face that but more importantly everyone in the industry did. Beginning, 2009 was a really big step change for retailing. Obviously, it was facing the financial crisis, which was impacting everyone around the world and consumers and the industry. ButI think that’s when you can start to retract the beginning of e-commerce, having that impact, the sort of digital revolution whatever you want to call it.
So for retail, it was almost like a perfect storm of massive industry change with the macro challenge of the global economic and financial crisis. So you know, so within the space of two years, the kind of the retail landscape was changing. I mean sure international expansion was still there, but then it was more about survival for many businesses. Also how do you start to cope with this rapid emergence of online shopping and of course, that’s where we were starting to see the pure play retailers being launched or getting stronger.
So something that was another key development phase and that was really going up to the beginning of the covid pandemic. That was the big issue. It’s that mix of on and offline and from the Congress point of view, we tried to build programs that helped those retailers grapple with those big challenges. Of course the next thing the industry faced and that obviously had an extraordinary impact was in 2020 the covid pandemic. And its impact has continued to where we are today. Obviously we’re still grappling with the fallout from that. I mean, I think last year when the Congress met in April in Rome, you know, everyone was hoping for the industry to begin to see the back of the pandemic and look forward. And I think the big issues, just thinking back to that time were we’ve seen ecommerce grow to extraordinary percentages and to a point where people haven’t thought they would reach with their online sales for at least another five years. That was the common feeling at that time, which was only two years ago. And that consumer behavior changed forever by its impact. Added to that, of course, the war in Ukraine had only just started and that’s where we started to hear of the economic impact. So retail’s been grappling with those issues but I think when we came to meet this year. I mean obviously everyone, you know Ukraine is unfortunately still happening and not getting any better but… everything finds a way of starting to work out and to live with these issues. But what we’ve also seen as an industry is that that high point of e-commerce has started to fall back. People returned to stores in a stronger way than had been anticipated… We heard in the Congress several speakers say that the real e-commerce probably has dropped back to actually, if you track the original growth curve of Pre-2020, we sort of back up those levels. Although for some retailers that is a big proportion. We heard in the Congress the John Lewis partnership. As you know, it’s a department store business and its chairman, Sharon White, said that 60% of their business is now online, which given they’ve got really big department stores that have to operate with all the cost base. Yeah, I think that highlights a lot of challenges retailers are having today. I mean whatever the proportion of your online, you know it will continue to grow. The dramatic growth rate of 2020-21 falling back, but it still leaves retailers with that. Omnichannel mix of online-offline, and how do you operate? How do you make online profitable? We heard that a lot at the Congress. For example, in the food sector, you have to have an online position but equally it’s a very costly operation to run particularly when you’ve got stores and that is the factor for retailers.
We’ve definitely seen some really dramatic stages in the development of retail since we launched it in 2007.
Ian: But the exciting part is how we just keep moving forward and it struck me really quite how different the industry felt from this year’s Congress compared to last year’s. There was a different sense talking to the retailers of where they are. It didn’t feel like they were In a negative position. Last year there were definitely worried about all the challenges and the challenges seem to be getting greater, you know. Everyone was collecting economies to go into recession and no one knew what the impact of the war in Ukraine would truly be. Plus, I’d say the fallout from the pandemic but there was a real sense. I felt the retailers were sort of new. They know what they need to do. Not to minimize the challenges but they’re really accepting that these are uncertain times. These are challenging times, extraordinary times as we said in our theme.
We’ve called our theme “retail leadership for extraordinary times” and that still feels like the best description of where we are, but the retail leaders were from the conversations and the mood of the Congress. I think that there’s a great sense of partnership and collaboration even amongst the industry to learn from each other, work with each other, on some of the big challenges.
Adara: Totally and it’s great to hear that the mood is changing. And also that the industry has that space and that opportunity to think together and help each other and coming out as you know, one great industry that retail is. You mentioned the challenge of Omnichannel and it must be really hard combining the people coming back to the stores but also the e-commerce and combining all of that and having also an agile way to adapt because that keeps changing, right? Like that pattern today is one way, tomorrow is another way.
Ian: In fact, right at the depths of the pandemic, that was the thing that was amazing about retail. Because, pre-pandemic one of the issues we constantly heard from more established retailers was that they needed to learn how to be more agile. “We need to, we need to be more like Amazon, be more like a pure play or a startup business that can appear to be able to move really quickly and take risks”. I had many conversations with big, long established retailers. It was, you know, we need to learn how to do that, but when the crisis came, everyone did it without thinking and that’s something I hope. And I do believe retailers have learned that’s something that has to be embedded in the way they operate and how they think. You can’t think a lot about something, you have to move forward, you have to take a risk … We heard this a lot from many speakers, you know. You take a risk, some things aren’t going to work but you as they always say you learn quickly and you move on. You learn from the mistakes or the things that didn’t work.
Challenges will happen. Something unexpected will happen. You have to plan for that as best you can. But also you have to keep moving because the world, the consumers keep moving forward. There’s always new technologies, new ideas.
Adara: Yeah, and you mentioned, like moving fast, taking risks… I think also a very important word around what we are experiencing may be “to listen”. To listen fast, right?
Adara: And not only to the consumers and their habits, but also to listen to the people that work at the stores as well, right?
Ian: Absolutely. And I feel that probably is something that is overlooked. The CEO of Primark, who was one of our speakers at this year, for me, he’s a great retailer, he’s come up through the ranks of retail and I was lucky enough to spend time with with him at the Congress, not just hearing him speak and he’s one of those retailers that, to your point, spend a lot of time in the stores and he’s always listening, always asking questions.
And over years of, I think back to the great retailers. I’ve met, they’re the ones that always took that principle. They need to spend time in the business and the business could be online now as well as offline but it is absolutely critical to listen to all aspects of the business. You’re absolutely right. People talk about customer centricity and I think we’re at that point, that you truly have to be listening and understanding your customer and yes, technology, data and data management is critical to that and it gives you the ability to do it. But there is also a human side. The other keys take holders are the people in your business. And whether it’s literally in the front line in the stores, in the warehouses, wherever it might be sitting in the head office… I think there’s a trend we’ve been hearing at the Congresses that is that the workforce is changing and people, particularly the younger people, coming into the workforce, Millennials and now Gen Z, are really less accepting of businesses that don’t Stand for what they believe in or don’t offer them the opportunities….
The customer is absolutely in the driving seat. Now there is no point in buying products, 6, 12 months ahead and just pushing them out hoping your customers will buy them. You know, they’ve got so many more choices. They are moving. Their taste, their interests are moving so much faster. So retailers who don’t accept that, they’re gonna struggle to survive.
Adara: Yeah, yeah. Totally. It’s so interesting to see all that. We also have been hearing about that change in the workforce and the relationship with the brands and the relationship with the retailers and even the relationship with work, right? Every generation has its own relationship with but now, it seems like it’s more radical in a way, right? It’s a struggle to find even sometimes people to work at the stores.
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, now that is a big issue for retail and other industries coming out of the pandemic. Suddenly, the workforce has dramatically changed, many businesses had to lose jobs, but then needed to recruit people. But people had just made big life decisions to go and work in something else or find or discover that another sector suited them better. In America, they call it the great resignation. People were moving and leaving the industry and retailers struggled to position themselves and promote themselves as a career destination place to work.
A great one is the CEO of action, who spoke at the Congress. She started on the shop floor filling shelves at the age of 17, and is now, the CEO of that business, not that long period and again another instinctive retail that spends time in the stores, watching customers talking to staff. But yeah, coming back to your question, the workforce is changing. I think one of the last things to be impacted by the pandemic is working from home. I mean, so many head offices, retail included, are struggling to get people to come back five days a week to the office workplace. And obviously not every part of a business can do that. But you know, people are demanding different benefits and different career opportunities and they want their career to be developed in different ways. We had a great piece of research presented at the Congress by Brunswick, the Communications Agency who does Gen Z Consumers in a number of countries around the world. Their perception of retail as a career destination and worryingly It came out quite poorly. But it did lead to an interesting discussion amongst retailers who said that probably the issue is that retail doesn’t promote itself very well because if you just ask straight questions, they don’t realize the range in the depth of skills that retail needs and the opportunities that it has.
You know, increasingly saying that it’s up there with big tech companies’ digital side and the technology side, in terms of detecting that it employs needs and the opportunities. Therefore, it will have that right through the business, you know, data and the core original skills etc. I think the conclusion that people took from that piece of research was that the industry globally, right at an individual level, has a job to do to promote itself better.
I mean look at artificial intelligence AI. Are genuinely wasn’t talked about 12 months ago at the Congress. It was all about the Metaverse and this year, but not just for the Congress just every single day, it’s all about AI and that is going to completely change the retail industry and many many others. So that’s another area where retail will have to drive forward and attract the right people.
Adara: Right, right. Absolutely. Ian, you were mentioning a couple of profiles that have stated interesting topics and I wanted to ask you if you have any other particular person or talk that has especially inspired you through these years.
Ian: Back actually was 2015, we had Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, you know, the father of everything that’s happened in the world today, and we were lucky enough to have him as a speaker. It was like a long time ago, given how fast things are changing… what’s fresh in my mind I guess, last year, we were lucky enough to have Paul Paulman the former CEO of Unilever’s key Speaker. Paul is passionate about sustainability in the realm of business, having a strong sense of his purpose, what a business exists to be because, if it just exists to make money, he believes that is unsustainable in all senses. He was a retail leader. You have to think about what you exist to be. What is your role? What are the companies that you run? What does it mean? What is its purpose? And if you don’t understand, you don’t deserve to move forward.
And this year we had many great speakers. This year, we had two incredible speakers from this organization called Kids Against Plastic. Started by two sisters when they were 14 and 13 years old. And one of the sisters was with us. She’s now 19 and incredibly articulate and bright. And she brought with her, because they have a network of supporters now around the world, a nine year old called Ali. Who’s based in Spain and the confidence at nine years old to speak on a stage in front of 700 was extraordinary. She memorized her speech as well, but both Amy and the nine year old Ali just spoke so incredibly passionately about their future.
So I thought it was lovely, 12 months apart. We had two very different speakers addressed on about the same topic but really passionately looking at something that is Non-negotiable for retailers. Unfortunately, one of the worst culprits in terms of pollution and the impact on the environment, just by the volume, the nature of the goods, is retail sales. So retailers do take it very, very seriously but it’s a huge, huge topic and sometimes we need to hear it, this year from Amy and Ali and last year from Paul Paulman. You need those moments sometimes to help galvanize and give sort of new energy to the efforts that people are putting into the important work around achieving net zero and Circular economy, and generate a more sustainable business model.
Adara: Yeah, yeah. What you were saying about these girls is fascinating. Well, either way we have been talking a lot about change. In a conversation last year, you said that retail will find a way forward, and it is, it is finding that way. In fact, resilient retail was one of the main lines of discussions in this year’s Congress along with transformation of retail, purposeful retail and customer centered retail. How have those topics been especially highlighted this year?
Ian: We had many, many conversations when we were building the program for this year’s Congress. It’s important to understand retailers’ mood and their issues.
As I mentioned earlier, at that point, we had those challenges with the pandemic, but then also the geopolitical-economic challenge around Ukraine and the threat of recession. Those issues were really dictating how retailers were thinking when we started having conversations. It just felt like that was the best way to describe where retail was. Clearly we are still living in an extraordinary time. We wanted to try and think about how to take a strong leadership position here. So that was our goal. Even Today many retailers say they’ve never known a more challenging time. So we tried to put those into key buckets to try and work out how best to describe those multiple challenges. We clustered them together and described them in four ways.
So, resilient retail is that, you’ve got all these economic challenges and the consumers facing cost of living crises and those issues. So the way forward is to build resilience. How can you grow your top line and maintain profitability? But at the same time you’re grappling with high inflation and you also want to help your customers who are living through a really challenging time. So it’s, you know, how do you drive that resilience and we heard particularly that this is where AI and technologies are starting to come in, to enable businesses to be more efficient. Automation is going to be a way forward. But just generally technology and AI can help retailers in terms of how they buy better, how they manage their stock, how they bring great efficiency into the business…
Also, describing the importance of sustainability because that’s a huge Non-negotiable challenge. We can have that discussion about what you stand for? What’s the purpose of your business? And we heard from David Boynton, who was CEO of the Body Shop, which is probably one of the original purpose driven retailers founded back in the 1970s. It had a clear view of what it stood for or what it wouldn’t do which was very unique at the time. But now it is something that many retailers strive for to be in. Within that, it’s embracing diversity and it is important to listen to people in the business. So that’s under that purposeful area, right? And then transformational is: where is the industry going? Because the big challenge we were hearing was that retail is under the pressure to cut costs and you really can’t cut your investment in some of the things that are going to drive the business forward particularly technology. So, most retailers now are working out and having to invest in the OmniChannel model…
Adara: And again, efficiency, right?
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. The technology investment is huge. So you have to know where to place your bets. So that’s what we were looking at under that transformation. The last one was the customer focus retail which I think goes back to that point. It feels so obvious to say, but the customer is totally in the driving seat. It does require changing the focus. As you described early, listening to the customer analyzing what the customers have done, thinking about what they may do. But combined with a human aspect. And your single customer can be different any time of the day, and, you know, he’ll be different from one of the week. Technology and data is increasingly enabling businesses to do so. Understanding everything about each individual consumer.
Adara: And, you know, even though it makes it more difficult, I think that granularity of understanding and listening and adapting to the consumer, I think that’s beautiful. I think that makes it so much more interesting.
Ian: Yeah absolutely. And also on a more human level, when you walk in a store, and they remembered you from a previous encounter we’ve all had those experiences. I think that’s going to be premium on that going forward. They should be accentuating that even more because I think that human connection is so important in life and in retail.
Adara: Yeah. And you know, I mean we’re people, right? We need that. This new generation with social media and influencers… they’re asking for that. They’re asking for people that stand for what they stand for.
Ian: Yeah, exactly. I think that the sort of level that people have returned to the stores surprises everyone and I think it’s probably again that people want those human connections. I think they are really enjoying the ability to reconnect or connect with people. I think that is so important and that’s a great opportunity there for retail in particular, I think.
Adara: Yeah, totally. And going back to the Congress, you have mentioned that your strategy has always been and will continue to be to reflect the agenda of retail CEOs from across all sectors and geographies. What is that agenda today?
Ian: I think to be a retail CEO in particular, directing the business, also you have the responsibilities of delivering to the shareholders and the investors in the business. So they have to deliver the profits of course, and the business model, but they have a responsibility when it comes to their own sustainability. Any leader has that sort of short-term vision. . This is what we need to do today. What’s the medium term challenge going to be? What’s the long-term challenges? And I think that’s what they talk about. Also, you can’t ignore where you are today, and you’ve got real life issues, every single minute, every single day.
AI was talked about a lot and clearly has such a huge potential to help but also change the industry and it needs huge investment and it needs several retails openly said, look, I don’t know enough about this, I need to understand this and we should be unafraid to say it., There’s certain things we don’t know, but we need to learn. Professor Scott Galloway, who was one of our keynote speakers, said “Learn about AI because your competitors already are” and that’s the simple truth.
Adara: Yeah, totally. I wanted to talk about your background. Journalism and then creating this space, that facilitates building business relationships between the different players in the industry. What would you think are the main differences around that and also its similarities?
Ian: Sometimes I wonder how I went from journalism to what I do now…but In many ways, I feel there are huge similarities. I guess my starting point is that I love the industry. That’s why I’ve chosen to stay in it. I mean, as a young journalist I could have moved into another sector but I didn’t because I was fascinated and continue to be fascinated by the industry. And I think when you’re a journalist I think you have to be really interested in what you’re writing about and it’s about building relationships because all that contacts… I guess it was from that. That sort of understanding of the industry and listening to people.
We obviously had publishing but where does that lead us? So you know when we launched the Congress and that’s been my role pretty much ever since. I approach it as I would put them together in a magazine or building an in-depth article. You do the research. I always think of it in those terms.What do people want to know? What are they really interested in? What are they really worried about? Who are the best people to address this? And by talking to lots of people and getting recommendations, getting introductions and building it that way. So I very much feel that relationships are at the core of what I’ve always done. And each year, you hope that what you have built is what the industry needs. And it’s got the right language… There will be things emerging that will require us to come up with a new format, new ideas, a different perspective… But that’s what also makes it exciting, I guess. Ultimately, we want to send people back to their businesses with lots of ideas and inspiration.
Adara: Yeah. So work requires to be always up to date and on the key retail players and a global market and in this sense and according to your expertise, what can you tell us about today’s retail in the different regions in the world? Also, which are the most trendy markets at the moment? And those experiencing the biggest growth?
Ian: I talked to retailers from all over the world and there’s a common language, you know, you talk about Omnichannel, and some people don’t necessarily call it like that but it’s the same thing. And so those issues are the same. But equally, every continent, region, country…they will have different approaches because of the nature of the business.
During the worst period of the lockdowns and the pandemics. We started publishing monthly reports talking to retailers all over the world, and in Latin America because of the nature of the dense, populations in the cities, they they would developing rapid delivery that we hadn’t quite yet seen in Western Europe, for example, but obviously, we have them, they arrived pretty quickly, but those kind of unique solutions.
In India they’ve developed sort of very unique solutions to the market. Pretty much everyone has a mobile phone, so sort of mobile commerce in India has reached extraordinary levels, which we can learn from China, of course, which feels like it’s a bit of a closed world to us, still. But we were lucky enough to have a couple of retailers from China with us.
China continues to set the pace in omnichannel, but I mean, the digitization of retail. But physical retail is still really big and strong in China but that’s what I’m hearing. Technology is changing and reshaping the physical space in a way we probably haven’t seen but we don’t know the details yet because we’re not having that sort of free open travel to and from China.
Adara: And what makes a great retailer?
Ian: As a business or as an individual?
Adara: As a business.
Ian: It comes down to understanding the customer. What I’m hearing more this year than ever before is about a great product. A business, a brand, it’s built around, what you represent in terms of what you’re selling. I think we’re gonna start to see a new phase where the product is absolutely even more critical than ever before. I think a great retailer exists around the product they sell. That’s that sounds like an obvious thing to say but we’ve had years where many, many retailers were all selling the same things. And it is hard to make those changes. But, you know, whether it’s Marks and Spencer here in the UK, which is a huge retailer or Walmart, they’re putting huge emphasis on the product.
We have Chris de Lapuente who’s head of selective retailing at LVMH which owns Sephora. So there’s some pretty important powerful brands in the LVMH portfolio, but he said that he’s never known a period where there’s so much investment in products and the brands and the creativity basically. So I think a great retailer does come around to that. Read the consumers, invest more in rethinking the role of the store and make it attractive.
Adara: And I guess having the right people at the right time.
Ian: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. It’s really focused on what they need to deliver to create those great experiences and that’s by having the right people in the store, a great product and beautifully merchandise. well merchandised. I think it’s just being forward looking and excited to serve the customers.
I think, you know, there’s no place for a retailer that just isn’t changing, Isn’t adapting. anything? That’s the key thing. So you want to be constantly surprised by retailers that you know well. Just as a retailer, you’ve never seen before. So you need that sense of newness and engagement, I think.
Adara: Yeah. And I guess, you know, in a way, don’t you forget why you’re in this industry? Who actually runs the business, right?
Ian: Yeah, exactly.
Adara: Fantastic, fantastic. So to close this very insightful conversation, I’m going to ask you a question that we ask all of our guests. What is Ian’s business philosophy?
Ian: I’m going back to when we were talking about journalism versus the Congress. I think my business philosophy is driven by loving this industry. What can I do to help the industry? Whatever I do, the reports or writing or speaking and obviously running the Congress… It’s how I can connect with the industry to put something together as meaningful. I suppose the philosophy aspect of that, it comes down to relationships. I think it’s about building strong partnerships and relationships because that’s the only way that you can learn and understand things. And then that gives you that ability to ask people to do things like speak or attend. And so I think it’s having a genuine desire to build those relationships within the industry because that’s the bedrock.
Adara: Super, that’s fantastic. Ian, thank you so, so much for all the knowledge that you have shared, all this generosity with us, and it has been a joy to have you in RETALES.
Ian: I really, really enjoyed our conversation. So thank you again for inviting me.
Adara: Of course. And a big thank you to all our listeners for being with us once again. We hope you learn as much as we did from this great chat. We hope to see you next time.