Retailers must focus on pushing their value credentials and building market share to ride through the economic downturn, according to Debenhams chairman John Lovering and New Look chairman Phil Wrigley.
Speaking at the Retail Week Conference 2009 at London’s Hilton Metropole hotel this morning, Lovering said that shoppers would look towards product with perceived value rather than just chasing lower prices in the recession.
“We can’t all be Primark,” he told the delegates.
“Our Designers at Debenhams ranges have outperformed other products and third party brands. Customers want special product rather than the lowest possible price.”
Wrigley said: “Its 25% more expensive to source because of the value of the pound against the dollar. That dwarfs the percentage drop in consumer spending. There isn’t much room to wriggle with cost to beat that challenge. You have to attack as well as defend. You have to take market share to survive and you have to take a lot to thrive. You need a clear vision, a relevant offer to today’s customers and a concept that all stakeholders, management and suppliers buy into.”
He added that retailers should focus on seeking out talent within their companies.
Lovering also said that retail management teams needed to display confident leadership in difficult times.
“Leadership and vision are more important than process. You must convince your team that the future is bright and talk about how it is going to be, not how it was,” said Lovering.
Lovering added that Debenhams was reorganising its supply chain to help cut costs.
“We’ve reduced lines and options in the store by 15% year on year so we buy more with fewer suppliers as long as they agree to share the burden of extra costs,” he said.