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The Retail Forum & eCommerce Directors' Forum 2016 - Post Event Review

Alexi Cartwright | 09/06/2016
Filed under: retail, ecommerce

On the 27th April Richmond Event’s welcomed over 320 delegates and suppliers to their annual Retail & eCommerce Directors’ Forum at Whittlebury Hall.
As we reflect on our most well attended forum yet, we wanted to share with you some of the highlights from the day.

Opening Keynote address

Brian-McBride-2-(1).jpgWe opened the day with a fantastic keynote from Brian McBride, Chairman of, and Non-executive Director of
Brian provided a fantastic insight into developments in technology and how these have left consumers with more access to a range of affordable technology, shifting the way consumers can shop.

He made reference to Moore’s Law; an observation that the overall processing power of computers will double every two years. As an example Brian highlighted that it would have cost £62k for 0.5GB memory space 20 years ago that now costs £12 for a USB stick that holds 150 times that memory!

Making reference to Moore’s theory, McBride believes that retailers need to be less worried about technology and more concerned about how consumers are using it.
He touched on this again when he opened the floor to questions from the audience, with a key message being to use Social Media to connect with your audience and not to sell to them.


Following the success of introducing the eCommerce stream to the forum last year, we were delighted to have grown the event further this year, making it our biggest event yet!

This was great not only from a networking perspective for delegates, but it also meant
that attending Suppliers had a real range of job titles and remits to choose from when selecting their preferred meetings.
We had 170 Senior level Retail professionals and eCommerce Directors’ in attendance at the forum, with over 75% of these delegates attending the event for the first time this year.

Here is what a few of these delegates had to say about their experience:
‘Thanks for a really great day and evening. I was not sure what to expect but it exceeded my expectation in terms of organisation and the quality of people that I met.’
-        Ian Whittingham, MD, Sigma Sport

‘It was a great opportunity to meet with various suppliers in one day and start those conversations and interest which normally for the volume of people seen might take several weeks / months to orchestrate – a really good idea’
-        Muriel Neighbour, Head of programme change, Hobbs

‘This was my first time at a Richmond Event and I really enjoyed it. The speakers were excellent, I had some productive supplier meetings, and met some very interesting peers from other retailers.’
       Paul McDermott, Head of eCommerce, Poundland

‘It was a good day and I got a lot out of it.’
-        Tim Jessop, Head of eCommerce Toys R Us

There were three main streams to this year’s conference programme ‘Clicks, Bricks and Retail’. We then ran a variety of sessions under these sub-headings, highlights from these sessions include:
How to benefit from Future Technology – Matt Truman
Matt-Truman.jpgTruestart are a business that helps up to 10-15 start-ups a year to find their feet and has invested in 22 companies to date, specialising in promoting and recognising businesses with potential and turning them into a success.
Using this background knowledge, Matt delivered a session exploring how to use specific models to run successful retail businesses.
He first touched on mainframes based on mobile identifying main areas to consider being:
•        Content, Community, Commerce
•        Customers view must be at the fore
•        Personalisation
•        Convenience
•        Innovative Business Models
He then explored how a retailer can make the best of technology in an omni-channel world:
•        Experiment – undertake frequent digital experiments every year
•        Incentives – actively recruit and retain digital talent
•        Decision making - does your board have a CIO, CDO etc?
•        Infrastructure – how can we enable seamless bolt-ons?
This was followed by case studies presented by three of the companies that Truestart hosted – Photosmart, The Blogger Programme and Presence Orb.
The Spaces and Places of Retail - Tim Denison, Ipsos
Tim used the session to not only explore current statistics and trends but to also look back at a time-line of how the high street and consumer spending has changed since the 1960’s and how it will continue to change moving forward until 2020. Tim-Denison.png
33% of total Retail sales in 2015 were actually made ‘out-of-town’, with only 40% of sales coming from town centre high streets and the remaining 27% being made up of other Retail spaces. This compared to 20 years ago highlights the shift into outlets & Retail parks as 20 years ago only 27% was out of town and 50% was the high-street.
Across the food sector, there are some interesting trends with Deloittes forecasting that by 2019, 34.9% of consumers will shop for food in a superstore (down from 42.2% last year) 10.5% will do so in a discount store (up from 6.2% last year) 8.3% online (up from 4.4% last year)
On a positive note, Tim mentioned that retail vacancies are slowly improving as more empty units are now becoming occupied.
A final observation from Tim was that “there is now just a 9% renewal rate of retail leases compared to 31% a decade ago” which speaks volumes in terms of the state of the high-street.
What’s in Store for Stores? – Richard Bonner, John Lewis
Richard-Bonner.jpgRichard focused his session on the seismic shifts that he has experienced not only within John Lewis, but the rest of the retail industry.
He noted that in 2006 39% of the population lived in Urban areas, this has increased and is forecast to be at 55% by 2030.
In response to these shifts, retailers need to remain relevant and need to be able to add value at every stage of the “customer value chain”:
He noted that due to the shift into online shopping, retailers need to be more brand-centric as opposed to store-centric as shopping continues outside of the store.
In order to adapt to the changing shopping culture Richard encouraged Retailers to use stores as a space for experimentation and inspiration, whilst investing in new store formats.
Retail State of the Nation – Neil Saunders, Columino
In his session, Neil took delegates through a journey of the Retail State of the nation, looking specifically at some key consumer trends. His observations included:
Exploration – Consumers are keen to explore and discover new things and experiences for themselves.
Leisure – experiences are more important to consumers than things
Discount Driven – Consumers want to seek out low prices for everyday items
Investment – they are also willing to make sacrifices to be able to purchase a luxury product
Prioritisation – consumers struggle to get everything they need, unlike the 1980’s “I can have it all” mentality and so need to prioritise. Millennials will be even more constrained.
Post Materialism – Again Millennials are driving this trend “owning things is unnecessary and wasteful” and so hiring, rather than buying, furniture for apartment is now common in NYC
Choice is Endless! - For example car buyers had a choice of c96 different cars in the 1970’s compared with over 1300 today and wine drinkers had a choice of only 37 different wines in the 1970’s compared with 12286 now! So consumers need and want a curated choices.
Innovation Zone – Powered by Truestart
For the first time this year we hosted an Innovation Zone which was an area where retailers could come and experience first hand some of the latest technologies in the retail arena. Companies/services being presented included: 
Presence Orb: Presence Orb enables brick and mortar retailers to analyse customer in store actions utilizing WiFi access points to produce actionable insight.
The Blogger Programme: Revolutionising Influencer Marketing through our industry leading tech platform that connects brands with the most relevant bloggers to maximise brand awareness across social media.
Photospire: Photospire enables retailers to create personalised video content that is fully tailored for each customer. Data driven, personalised video that plays within email and social marketing platforms.
Hoxton Analytics: Hoxton Analytics has a novel in-store technology that can count and profile people accurately and in real-time, based only on the shoes they wear.
Near St: NearSt helps people find and buy products in shops nearby, by making the world’s local inventory shoppable from your smartphone.
JT Global: Purple is an intelligent platform for physical spaces. Using social engagement, marketing tools and location analytics, brands get digital insights using data from real world spaces, such as WiFi data.
Mobaro Retail: launched only this year, is a cloud based solution that incorporates an app for store users and a dashboard for management and head office users.
SMG, SurveyMini: is a geo-location app that tracks customers as they visit shops and restaurants. 
Leisure Activities
Proving so popular last year, The Porsche activity was available to both Delegates and Porsche2.jpgSuppliers to attend. A lucky 60 (30 delegates, 30 suppliers) were taken to Silverstone racetrack to The Porsche Experience centre to test drive a variety of Porsche’s.
What an exhilarating way to unwind after a busy business day! 
Not forgetting those who would prefer to relax, we also offered delegates a chance to attend the Day Spa at Whittlebury Hall and receive a treatment of their choice.

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