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World Retail Congress: ‘Change buying mentality to win in digital,’ says Harrods CFO

John Edgar, chief financial officer at Harrods, says the business is having to change the way it buys in order to succeed in the digital world.

Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Rome, he said: “We buy wide and shallow but the introduction of digital has meant that has had to change. What suited us for the last 150 years won’t be good enough for even the next five.”

Harrods currently has 26 million visitors to the site, but Edgar believes there is still a huge opportunity to grow. He said retailers need to invest in digital as not doing so is a bigger cost risk than the investment required.

Edgar also highlighted that retailers must not forget the most important thing: the product. “If you haven’t got good product and service then end of. Whatever the technology you invest in, you ultimately need product the customer wants to buy.”

Looking at interpreting analytics, Edgar said that retailers have to be careful about what they do with the information.

He said: “You have to respond to customer needs but don’t do it as a knee-jerk reaction to data. Sometimes it’s a retailer’s job to tell the customer what they want and that’s about the skill of the buy – take the customer on the journey with you so they buy into it.” 

Readers' comments (2)

  • Thierry BAYLE

    There were many insightful panel discussions and presentations at the World Retail Congress.
    I agree that Buying is certainly a key recipe for success and often not discussed in retail debate.
    May be it is not glamorous enough!
    Acting as retail expert for Whos Next, I had a 100 store operations and the person handling just menswear was ONLY tracking 8 product classes ( tops, shirts, trousers...) whether the store would be doing £300k to +£1 000 000.
    What does your Retail Director tell you about the above?
    Hopefully the answer is that it is WRONG.
    We can be tracking 20 to 30 classes in a £1 M store and provide all the necessary ROI to the clients.
    Good luck in tracking the right product categories. Your first step to improved profitability.
    Thierry Bayle

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  • I have attended a few conferences where people from Harrods including Mr Ward have spoken. I truly admire their honesty when discussing such issues.
    Thank you for your insight wither we agree or not is irrelevant at least they talk!

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