There’s no rest for the wicked! Straight from our Retail Tour around San Francisco, Seattle and NYC, we spent today  at The National Retail Federation’s ‘Big Show’. This is our fourth time attending this show – and as per our usual format we’re going to provide our key take aways from the days. So here’s our day 1 key themes. Enjoy! FYI if you want to follow us live in real time – head to twitter (@retailoasis) where we’re updating throughout each talk we go to.

1. The pivot!
It seems that everyone’s moved on from talking about change to ‘pivoting’ into change. An example of this was the opening keynote from James ‘JC’ Curleigh from Levi’s talking about the brands ‘pivot’ as their competition has intensified. We feel like this notion of pivoting is going to become a bit of a buzzword in retail this year. We’ve seen quite a few retailers on our tour to San Fran and Seattle actually doing this and some just talking about it – aka saying the right words but with little substance. Let’s chat about the ones who have pivoted successfully – Ulta and Restoration Hardware (both growing sales and comping above CPI).

2. Balancing Logic and Emotion
In the second session of the day there was lots of talk about balancing ‘logic and emotion’ (or as it’s sometimes called science and art). It was called ‘brain and heart’ by Dan Levitin of Maveron VC fund, and ‘Magic and Logic ‘by Marcia Kilgore who is a total wonderwomen – she started Bliss, Soap & Glory, FitFlop and most recently Beauty Pie. It’s a simple concept in theory and like all simple theories hard in practice. The quote of the day came from Levitin who said: ‘Great brands resonate emotionally, but they also have to use data. The ones that just use heart never scale and the ones that just use brain never make it into their customers lives.’ It’s so  important to think about this balance – it’s easy to use data (aka historic information) to help you make decisions but you have to use intuition with data to truly win.

3. Collaboration
After lunch we listened to Steve Case (co-founder of AOL – just think about what the internet was like then) along with Tobin Moore (from Optoro – a startup online returns platform) and Oisin Hanrahan (from Handy – a startup focused on home installation). These three speakers were huge advocates of partnership – obviously given Handy and Optoro’s businesses rely on this. Their point-of-view is simple – in order to succeed in this next wave of retail (which is increasingly at the intersection of retail and technology) you need to partner. You need to build a core competency around partnership – that comes from culture but it’s  necessary to realise that partnership (particularly with start-ups ) is a key to winning in the future. Obviously the partnership(s) has to be based around a core need for the consumer – for example in the case of Optoro they look after reverse logistics (returns etc) for partners one of which is Walmart. With a key competitor like Amazon.com, the returns experience is very important to Walmart.

4. Transparency
No suprises here thanks to the internet and ‘millenials”. It was interesting to hear Doug McMillon (CEO/ President Walmart) talk about transparency and purpose for Walmart. Something that some would consider an oxymoron. To quote McMillon ‘ (Walmart) use the scale of the company for good’. By that he means using their supply chain to make more sustainable and environmentally-friendly choices and then also working with suppliers. McMillon closed this topic by saying: ‘This matter some today and even more tomorrow’. We’re not sure about this we’d say it’s always mattered.

We’ll have more tomorrow with Day 2! In the meantime if you want to follow along with us in real time we’re on Twitter (@retailoasis)

Author Pippa Kulmar

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