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World Retail Congress tackles retailers' priorities

Industry leaders gathered in Madrid last week at the World Retail Congress, where the overriding message was that businesses needed to future-proof themselves by connecting with the future shopper.

Stacey Cartwright, outgoing deputy chairman of Harvey Nichols, highlighted how department stores need to evolve to stay current in today’s marketplace: “At Harvey Nichols, we don’t consider ourselves a department store but a large boutique providing curated and personal experiences for our shoppers.”

She said the retailer’s reinvention revolved around the four key values of the business: obsessed with style, playful in attitude, daring in delivery and devoted to the customer.

Cartwright pointed out the importance of embracing new technology and said Harvey Nichols’ physical and digital offers are now underpinned by the rewards app, which more than 50% of sales have touched at some point.

Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand officer, Avery Baker, also talked about the evolution of the brand to appeal to a younger target market and re-engage its audience. She said the brand’s ambition is to “reflect who we are, and the real time and age we live in”. This centres on the brand’s three pillars: outstanding product, adapt to change and consumers at the centre.

Avery discussed the demands of transformation and building a culture behind that vision, and urged the audience to allow employees interpret what the brand vision means to them to create an emotional connection.

Sébastien Badault, international director, luxury and fashion at Chinese etailer Alibaba, presented plans for the recently launched Luxury Pavilion – a separate area for luxury brands within the Tmall platform. The design of Luxury Pavillion is much cleaner than the main Tmall site to appeal to luxury brands.

Badault added that retailers need to recognise that the Chinese luxury shopper is on average 15 years younger than her or his European counterpart, and so needs to be engaged with in a different way.

Badault pointed out the differences in the way Chinese consumers shop: 92% of Tmall sales come via mobile. He also said that Chinese consumers are more open to giving away their data, but must see the value in doing so.

Another hot topic was the importance of telling the story behind the brand, including the production journey. At a stream dedicated to sustainability, speakers such as Hugo Boss director of sustainability, Andreas Streubig discussed the importance of traceability throughout the supply chain and how this can have a positive effect on the bottom line.

However, he cautioned: “Sustainability is not a destination, it’s a long-term journey.”

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