Our final day at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in NYC, what a day it was. It’s been a crazy 2 weeks looking at retail in San Francisco, Seattle, NYC and then attending the conference. So here’s our round-up of what we found interesting on the last day:
We listened to probably the most inspiring speaker I’ve ever heard (well equal to Arianna Huffington) Hamdi Ulukaya the founder of yogurt business Chobani. All I have to say is this is how business should be run. His awareness of the perils of being overly capitalistic (and the impact that can have on further separating the upper and lower classes) means that he has chosen to run his business as a family. ‘I always felt that they had built this (the factory workers) everyone works shoulder to shoulder but didn’t always get what they needed (for their family) while I felt comfortable. We gave 10% of the company to our employees – it wasn’t a gift it was a right’. He finished the talk with a really important point around culture – ‘A culture doesn’t develop with an ad or talk – it’s the CEO’s and executives actions. It’s not what’s written, it’s the stories that live within the walls. Those actions are extremely important..because we sometimes get so distracted by sales we forget that’.
Our first session of the day was spent listening to Jennifer Hyman of Rent-The-Runway. We are absolutely in love with this concept. They’ve gone from renting out designer goods for key occasions to supplying women with their more day-to-day work or weekend wardrobe (through their unlimited rental plan). What was interesting about her talk was how she is using the data they are collecting to refine their product mix as well as help designers make more informed decisions on their range. Basically, as a rental business not a traditional retail business, the business has data on how products are worn, where to, loyalty etc. To quote Hyman ‘All a retailer could tell a brand was what the sell through was, we can tell them so much more. We can identify why sell through is high but loyalty is low by saying it’s because of the quality of the garment etc’. Added to this they are able to use their data to help the designers they work with understand new extensions they may want to move into. ‘We’re using data to help designers experiment with things outside of their traditional business like testing sports (aka Athleisure) we can send them data on what customers are wearing in that arena’ said Hyman.
Retail as a Platform
White labelling technology is nothing new but it’s new to the retail thanks mostly to Amazon and their AWS (Amazon Web Services) platform which hosts many retailer websites (as well as players like Netflix). This idea of retail as a platform popped-up in discussions around Rent-The-Runway, where Jennifer Hyman mentioned that they were offering their services to other retailers looking at moving into rental. ‘We’ve spent 9 years building out rental and now can white label this to other people’. This idea of moving from B2C to B2B in retail where you can offer someone else the tech you have used is interesting. Although in it’s infancy as a whole, but well developed in the technology arena – we expect this to be a huge trend for those with the brains to understand how to commercialise their offer to another businesses.
Mobile Commerce Going Mainstream
We finished yesterday (Aka day 2) with what we can only call a sales pitch from Apple. In amongst all the plugging what we thought was interesting was a statement made by Jennifer Bailey was ‘Mobile represents 25% of all ecommerce in the US, mobile spend is expected to be the largest e-commerce channel in 2021’. From this moment it felt like there was more and more chat about mobile being the dominant commerce channel. This was backed up in a session later on Day 3 from Neiman Marcus CEO and President Karen Katz talking about the move to mobile; or even Rent-the-Runway who stated that ‘70% of our channel traffic is happening on mobile – which means a totally different experience tHan going to a store. Store traffic is going down and I don’t think it’s going back up’. The move to mobile is something of great importance to think through for retail (and ties back into the notion of frictionless retail).