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Consumer CX High Streets Podcast Retail leadership Retail trends Store of the future

The Retail Leader’s Roadmap with Brian Librach

Brian Librach, former VP of Stores at Urban Outfitters, Pacific Sunwear and Old Navy, joins Natalie to discuss his new book: The Retail Leader’s Roadmap. They explore:

  • Why retail leaders get stuck and how to rewrite your career outcome.
  • The evolution of bricks & mortar retail – what is the future of stores and how should we be measuring success?
  • Which brands does Brian admire and what are they getting right?
  • How can retailers ensure their staff are motivated and engaged?
  • Cultural shifts: digital transformation journeys and the importance of taking your people with you.
  • Upskilling and investing in digital competencies.
  • Squiggly careers: why the path to success isn’t always linear.
  • Natalie and Brian debate the key traits of winning retailers. 

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Consumer CX Podcast Retail leadership

The Real Reason Blockbuster Failed

James Keyes, Former 7-Eleven and Blockbuster CEO and author of Education is Freedom: The Future Is in Your Hands, joins Natalie on the podcast to discuss:

  • Change equals opportunity – lessons from Jim’s career and how to avoid being disrupted during periods of turbulence.
  • Dispelling the myths behind Blockbuster’s demise – why fear, not Netflix, killed Blockbuster.
  • Why Jim believes we might see a revival of the Blockbuster brand.
  • Diversification – with Netflix opening restaurants, TikTok opening shops and Amazon opening hair salons, just how far could and should brands veer from their core?
  • How technology can empower staff and elevate the customer experience.
  • Lessons from Jim’s new book – understanding the importance of collaboration, cultural literacy, continual evolution and character.

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Categories
AI Amazon CX E-commerce Non-food retail Quick commerce Retail trends Supermarkets Technology

It’s a Density Game, with Deliveroo’s Paul Wilkinson

Paul Wilkinson, Product Director at Deliveroo and former Tesco and Amazon exec, joins Natalie to discuss:

•    Quick commerce: what went wrong and how will it evolve?
•    Why Deliveroo won’t chase 15-minute delivery.
•    Learnings from the restaurant sector.
•    Why retail partners are more open to collaboration in 2024. 
•    Deliveroo’s move into non-food: “bringing the whole high street to the customer”.
•    Voice commerce: why hasn’t it taken off and is there a place for it in the future?
•    Frictionless checkout: are checkout-free stores the future or are there too many barriers to making it viable?

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E-commerce Economy Inflation Retail leadership Supermarkets Technology

Ken Towle on Supermarket Trends, Shrinkflation, International Retail

Former Tesco director and Nisa CEO Ken Towle joins Natalie on the podcast to discuss:


•    The retail and consumer outlook.
•    Why shrinkflation is not always a bad thing.
•    His experience running Nisa during the pandemic.
•    From self-checkouts to generative AI – how technology is changing the way we shop for food.
•    Grocery e-commerce and the importance of collaboration.
•    Lessons from his time as Tesco China CEO.

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Consumer CX ESG Store closures

Being an Early Mover Doesn’t Mean You Stop Moving

While watching my daughter at her gymnastics class last week, I overheard another parent talking about a kids’ birthday party they went to recently. It wasn’t the usual soft play centre but a more pleasantly scented… Lush store. 

Now I must admit that, as both a retail analyst and parent, I had no idea that Lush hosted parties on its shopfloor. But it makes perfect sense – Lush isn’t just a shop but an experience. A wonderfully fragrant, sensory stimulating, bath bomb-making experience.  

And that’s the kind of mentality that bricks & mortar retailers need today. You have to give shoppers something that a screen cannot. You need to embrace perpetual innovation. You need to continue to surprise and delight. And above all, as Theo Paphitis told me in an interview earlier this month, you need to have a reason to exist.

The Body Shop once had a reason to exist. Under founder Dame Anita Roddick, it pioneered ethical beauty in the 1970’s. Its focus on natural, fairtrade and cruelty-free products set the retailer apart from rivals, not to mention its strong stance on social and environmental justice issues. The Body Shop was genuinely ahead of its time.

Fast forward to 2024 and its overall proposition is still wildly relevant. The health and beauty category continues to thrive even in this tough climate and sustainable shopping has gone mainstream. And therein lies the problem. The Body Shop is no longer the only place on the high street that shoppers can turn to for ethical products. It’s not the cheapest. It’s not most convenient. And you could make the argument that it’s not the most inspiring. So what exactly is its USP?

The Body Shop may have once been a trailblazer, but they’ve settled into the status quo. Being an early mover doesn’t mean you stop moving. Standing still is the most dangerous thing you can do in retail. You have to continuously evolve in order to stay relevant to customers. If you don’t, someone else certainly will.

So how do you stay relevant in the ever-changing world of retail?  Your customer should always be your North Star. Start with the customer and then work backwards. How can you elevate the customer experience? What needs aren’t currently being met? How can you ‘go beyond’?

In the beauty space, you only need to look to a brand like Rituals to see what’s possible. Their philosophy of slowing down and transforming routines into special moments is evident the minute you walk through the door. Customers receive a cup of tea or a hand massage. The store environment is calming and every product has a story. It’s unique, relevant and the perfect antidote to our fast-paced lives.

A key factor of Ritual’s success is its unique brand proposition. It views itself as a wellness and lifestyle brand, rather than a beauty brand, and therefore doesn’t see itself having any direct competitors. It also embraces technology to deliver a truly personalised experience and is continuously evolving its offer. This is how you win in retail today.

Look at some of the more notorious retail disruptors like Amazon. I’ve often attributed Amazon’s success to a relentless dissatisfaction with the status quo. Other high street retailers are now adopting a similar approach. Marks & Spencer CEO Stuart Machin refers to the business as being “positively dissatisfied” and now requires its head office staff to spend to spend a week on the shop floor. Morrisons is even inviting shoppers to join management meetings. Listening to your customers has never been more important. In today’s retail climate, no one can afford inaction.

This article originally featured in Retail Week.

Categories
High Streets Podcast Retail trends

Hyper-Localism, Cinemas, High Street Regeneration

Have you been to Catford Mews or Peckham Levels? Then you’ll know what can be achieved by transforming disused car parks and empty retail units into vibrant, community-led, cultural hubs.

Preston Benson, founder of Really Local Group and fellow American in London, joins Natalie on the podcast to discuss:

  • How Really Local Group is creating and restoring cultural infrastructure by regenerating disused high street locations.  
  • Homogenous high streets – how to inject character and make our high streets relevant for 21st century shopping.
  • Funflation – the Taylor Swift Effect and how cinemas will evolve in the future.
  • Hyper-localism, community and the importance of financial inclusivity.
  • Why Amazon has partnered with Odeon and what this means for smaller, community-led cinemas. 

Catford Mews was RLG’s first site and they’ve since expanded into a number of locations like Ealing, Peckham, Reading and Sidcup with more venues planned throughout 2024 and beyond.

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ESG Fashion Podcast

International Women’s Day with Dame Zandra Rhodes

It’s International Women’s Day this week and who better to speak to than the iconic and wonderfully inspirational fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes?

This conversation was recorded live on stage at Springfair in February 2024. Dame Zandra tells Natalie about:

  • The highs and lows of breaking into the US fashion scene in the 1960s.
  • How she has spent her life rallying against what was expected of her – both as a designer and a female.
  • How her personal image has led to the success of her brand and more recent collaborations with IKEA, Happy Socks and Poppy Lissiman.
  • What it was like to dress Freddie Mercury and which cultural icon she’d love to work with today.
  • Her rainbow penthouse and pandemic pivots.
  • Fashion retail trends – from the rise of digital to the need for circularity. 
  • What’s next for Dame Zandra?

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Categories
CX E-commerce Technology Unified Commerce

How Do You Actually Achieve Unified Commerce?

Paid partnership with Manhattan Associates


What do you call a retailer with a relentless drive to enhance the customer experience? This may sound like the start of a geeky retail joke but it’s a serious question. We used to brand these more nimble businesses as “disruptors”. They were the ones ripping up the rulebook, defying the status quo and continuously elevating the shopper experience.

Today, I’d argue that all retailers need to adopt a mentality of perpetual disruption. In the fast-moving world of retail, today’s innovations quickly become tomorrow’s norms. You’ve got to keep evolving and experimenting. Failing fast has become a prerequisite. 

This was evidenced in a new study from Manhattan Associates. The inaugural Unified Commerce Benchmark for Specialty Retail in Europe assessed 50 retailers across three verticals (apparel and footwear, home and DIY, luxury) in five European markets (France, Germany, Italy, UK, the Netherlands).

Retailers were categorised as Leaders, Challengers, Followers and Laggards. The study then revealed common attributes of successful retailers across four categories: Search and Discovery; Cart and Checkout; Promising and Fulfilment; Service and Support. So what have we learned?

Firstly, the study called out four participating retailers as true leaders in Unified Commerce: Adidas, H&M, Leroy Merlin and M&S. These businesses aren’t just ticking boxes by offering capabilities such as real-time inventory statistics and product recommendation tools; they are actively embracing technologies that enable them to deliver more nuanced, and increasingly personalised, customer experiences.

And it’s paying off. The study found that Unified Commerce leaders’ revenue growth outperforms non-leaders by at least twofold.

Guided Inspiration, Rich Findability and Immersive StoryTelling

Leaders in ‘Search and Discovery’ help shoppers discover meaningful products, whether they are looking to fulfil an immediate need or are looking for inspiration. Most leaders in this space already bundle product offerings (offer suggestions to ‘buy the look’ or ‘buy the set’), and I imagine this will become the norm in the very near future as more retailers embrace the power of AI.

There is always room for improvement and Manhattan specifically calls out capabilities like offering real-time visibility on product description pages (PDP), inventory status callouts for low/out-of-stock items, and personalised recommendations on home page. Retailers should also strive for greater visibility of delivery times, for example by allowing shoppers to filter by fulfilment method.

Most leaders offer back-in-stock notifications and 100% of them provide product sourcing information and detailed content on sustainability practices. This is an important point – retailers must go beyond product features and really immerse the shopper in the brand’s ethos. Transparency is going to be key going forward. 

Unified Basket, Payment Flexibility, Frictionless Checkout

The biggest point of friction in today’s retail customer experience is due to the loss of context when transiting between the physical and the digital. Those retailers leading the way in ‘Cart and Checkout’ understand that a unified cart or basket is a foundational capability when it comes to that all-important connection across channels: 40% of leaders show personalised promotions and offers on PDPs and cart, compared to 6% of non-leaders. Most leaders also allow shoppers to view promo codes in cart and check product availability status by store in cart.

Given the proliferation of payment options today, most leaders also offer checkout with buy now, pay later (100%), Apple Pay or PayPal (70%), as well as the ability to use mixed payment methods for the same order (40%).

In-store and online cart abandonment is still far too regular of an occurrence in retail. In fact, more than one-third (35%) of shoppers said that they abandon their shopping cart because of lengthy checkout process and a whopping 37% said they will not retry if asked to re-enter payment or delivery details. It’s essential that retailers provide seamless checkout experiences that reduce unnecessary friction at the point of conversion.

Flawless Fulfilment

I’ve often said that the post-purchase experience tends to be more of an afterthought than a strategic priority. Well, that is finally changing as retailers recognise that a shopper’s product pick-up or delivery experience must be as seamless as their shopping journey. Not only do leaders in ‘Promising and Fulfilment’ make sure retailers meet or beat their delivery promises consistently, they do also so while being more environmentally friendly too.

Offering shoppers greater post-order flexibility, including complete or partial cancellations, and greater delivery/pick-up options are all areas leaders excel in. Sixty percent of leaders offer shoppers the ability to cancel orders post-purchase compared to 28% of non-leaders.

And shoppers are crying out for this: more than two-thirds of shoppers want a self-service option to be able to edit order after placing them. Meanwhile, nearly three quarters (73%) of shoppers value expedited deliver (same business day) but are only willing to pay less than €5 for the service.

Manhattan calls out the ability to highlight the carbon footprint / impact of fulfilment choice as an area for improvement. Shoppers are hyper-informed when it comes to pricing and product information, but too often they are fumbling in the dark when it comes to sustainability. I believe this will change considerably over the next decade and retailers must prioritise transparency to drive greener purchasing decisions.

360 Degree Service

Leaders in the ‘Service and Support’ segment offer shoppers a wide variety of service options from call centres to in-store assistance, social media support and live agents available via their website and mobile app. What is most important, however, isn’t the breadth of support options but the fact that they offer seamless continuity, consistent quality and always-on availability.

Leaders empower shoppers to self-serve most of their needs. Nearly all (92%) offer support on order modifications, returns and exchanges via chat/call and 75% offer their customers the ability to return purchases to drop-off locations.

In addition to problem solving, leaders also offer value-added services such as customisations, style/fit guidance and in-store hospitality to turn service interactions into a secret sauce of brand stickiness. Most leaders empower their store associates to check a shopper’s online purchase history while in-store (75% compared to 48% of non-leaders). They should also be striving for in-store appointment scheduling via their digital channels, product personalisation and allowing store associates to create or manage a shopper’s wishlist.

As I have said on numerous occasions, we are witnessing a democratisation of white-glove service within the retail industry. Don’t get left behind.

Download the full report.

Categories
Consumer CX E-commerce Fashion High Streets Non-food retail Podcast Retail leadership Retail trends

Retail Veteran Nigel Oddy on Treating Shoppers as VIPs

Natalie speaks to Nigel Oddy, currently CEO of the UK and Europe’s leading golf retailer American Golf, and previously CEO of House of Fraser, New Look, Matalan and The Range.

The video version of this episode is available on YouTube and is part of a special collaboration with the Richmond Retail & E-commerce Directors’ Forum. Nigel will be speaking at the event alongside leaders from across the industry – Tesco, Charlotte Tilbury, TikTok, N Brown and more. 

In this episode, Nigel gives us a sneak preview of what we’ll be discussing at the event. He shares what it was like running New Look during the pandemic, his biggest successes, what motivates him, the importance of spending time on the shop floor and why you must treat your shoppers as VIPs.

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AI Consumer CX Fashion High Streets Podcast Retail leadership Retail trends Returns Technology

The Future of Retail with Chris Browne

Chris Browne, former Global Retail Director at Ted Baker, joins Natalie to discuss:

  • Visual AI and the opportunities for fashion retail  
  • How tech can enhance the shopping experience
  • Addressing the perennial problem of returns
  • What Western retailers can learn from Asia
  • Chris’ vision for the future of the high street

Prefer video? You can also watch Natalie and Chris’ conversation on YouTube.

This episode is part of a special collaboration with the Richmond Retail & E-commerce Directors’ Forum. Chris will be speaking at the event alongside leaders from across the industry – Tesco, Charlotte Tilbury, TikTok, N Brown and more.

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