Out & About: World Retail Congress 2018 - Day 3

Day 3, the final day of the World Retail Congress in Madrid, ended as strongly as it had begun with some big retail brands taking to the main stage on the theme of the ‘Future of Retail’, among them Tommy Hilfiger, Williams Sonoma and El Corte Ingles.

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Tommy Hilfiger's chief brand officer, Avery Baker

Highlights on the final day of the Congress included a talk by Tommy Hilfiger's chief brand officer, Avery Baker, who gave insight into how the $6 billion business set about transforming itself – from the brink of irrelevance to resurgence in less than three years. A process, as she explained, that required a radical new mindset, authentic values, and a lot of courage.

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Laura Alber, president and CEO of Williams-Sonoma

Laura Alber, president and CEO of Williams-Sonoma, then took to the stage to explore the theme of innovation and experimentation in global retail. Both Alber and Baker then joined broadcaster Naga Munchetty for an engaging Q&A that included a discussion about the role of flagship stores. 'For me, flagship stores are just a way for brands to lose money,' said Alber. Her response drew applause from the audience.

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Martin Barthel, global head of global retail & ecommerce strategy at Facebook

Taking to the stage towards the end of the morning, retail futurist Howard Saunders gave an energetic and impassioned talk, urging retailers to forget making things quick and easy for shoppers and to set brands free from 'retail prisons'. Other speakers throughout the final day included Facebook, Grupo Cortefiel, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Harvard University, and El Corte Ingles – the retailer stating it remained bullish on the future for department stores.

The Congress drew to a close with a main stage interview with Sephora CEO, Christopher de Lapuent. The retailer went on to win 'Retailer of the Year' at the World Retail Awards ceremony later that evening in the stunning surroundings of Palacio de Cristal de la Arganzuela.

The World Retail Congress also presented the inaugural Isidoro Alvarez Lifetime Achievement Medal to Gilbert Harrison, founder of boutique investment banking firm Financo, and Jorge Pont, international division director for El Corte Ingles.

The Outstanding Leadership award (sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada) was given to the chairman of Inditex, Pa blo Isla for his significant contribution and commitment to the industry.Laura Alber, president & CEO of Williams-Sonoma, was recognised as Woman of the Year (sponsored by Clarity).

Retailer Employer of the Year (sponsored by Checkpoint) was won by Tommy Hilfiger. Retail Brand Collaboration was awarded to the UK Exclusive: Fenty Beauty retail launch partnership. The newly named Tendam, previously Grupo Cortefiel, was declared Retail Transformation and Reinvention Award (sponsored by Google) and The Mall at Wellington Green in Florida won Best Customer Experience Initiative - Mall Owner for the Starwood Retail Partners Live 360° initiative.

The Arcelik Experience Store picked up the award for Outstanding Store Design under 1,200sqm (sponsored by Showcase Interiors). The prize for Outstanding Store Design over 1,200sqm (sponsored by Showcase Interiors) was awarded to Missguided Bluewater, designed by Dalziel & Pow.

The Social Media Campaign of the Year was awarded to Debenhams for the company's memorable ‘You Shall…Find Your FAIRYTALE Christmas Campaign.’

Germany’s ABOUT YOU was declared Retail Start-Up of the Year and The Body Shop scooped Responsible Retailer Initiative of the Year for Enrich Not Exploit. Spoon Guru won the Retail Technology Gamechanger (sponsored by Google Cloud) for its tailored food search and the South Korean company LOTTE was awarded Best Customer Experience for the Cognitive Shopping Advisor Initiative.

As the Congress drew to a close, there was a chance to reflect on the past few days. Dunnhumby CEO, Guillaume Bacuvier, commented: 'Over three days at the Congress I’ve been left quite inspired. There will be winners and losers within the industry. Some will exit the big period transformation that retail is currently undergoing better off, while some will be in big trouble and probably fail all together.'

He added: 'What I’ve always enjoyed with the World Retail Congress as a conference is that not only is the quality of the attendance very high, executive level, and the substance of the content is exceptionally good, but the event has a "human scale" to it. You can network easily, everyone is approachable, and for me that is the perfect combination, as opposed to some events that become so big that it ends up being counter-productive.'

We also caught up with Ian McGarrigle, chair of the World Retail Congress, to get his thoughts on the event’s success. 'It’s great to have been back in Spain, where we first launched the Congress, and I think we have been rewarded with a great turnout. We have grown the number of attendees from last year and we have lots of international retailers here. We’ve heard some great presentations that have really captured the energy and optimism that is starting to come through in the industry – there’s very much a sense of "let’s rip up the rule book and start again", and I think that’s a really key message.'

As those attending the Congress began their journeys home from Madrid, taking away new ideas and with new contacts made, many will no doubt already be looking forward to what next year’s event will bring, when the World Retail Congress heads to Amsterdam.

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