Non-food retail Podcast Retail leadership Retail trends Technology

Leaders Leap: Transforming Your Company at the Speed of Disruption

Steve Dennis is a strategic advisor, keynote speaker, podcast host, and bestselling author of Remarkable Retail. He joins Natalie to discuss the findings of his new book, LEADERS LEAP: Transforming Your Company at the Speed of Disruption.

The explore the cost of misunderstanding risk and why playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all; why a complete metamorphosis of the leadership mindset is essential to thrive in the face of accelerating change; why some brands get stuck in the “unremarkable middle” and how to overcome internal complacency. Steve also shares the rationale behind his belief that many US department stores have no chance of turning themselves around, and whether the Dallas drone wars are a glimpse into the future of home delivery.

Natalie also shares a few thoughts on Amazon’s 30th anniversary.


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High Streets Podcast Retail leadership Retail trends Store of the future

Pop-Up Retail and Keeping Dept Stores Relevant

David Blakeney, former Store Development Director at House of Fraser and Sook, joins Natalie to discuss:

  • Why physical retail is on the cusp of a new dawn.
  • Repurposing physical space in a digital era.
  • Innovation in department stores – are retailers doing enough
  • Pop-up retail – which verticals are best suited (you’ll be surprised) and lessons from Sook.

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Ikea Roblox, Walmart Drones & AI Update, Pretty Little Thing Charging for Returns

The interview from this episode originally aired on The Globalist from Monocle Radio. Natalie discusses the latest global retail stories with Georgina Godwin:

  • Ikea’s Roblox venture: the launch of a virtual store and how Ikea has become the first brand to offer paid work on the gaming platform.
  • Walmart’s tech update: innovation in delivery – drones and at-home delivery – and the beta launch of a generative AI-powered shopping assistant.
  • Pretty Little Thing becomes the latest UK retailer to start charging for returns.

You can listen to the original episode of The Globalist Episode 3352.

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Perpetual Innovation with ex-Pandora and The Body Shop Boss

Jeremy Schwartz was the turnaround CEO of Pandora, the world’s largest jewellery company with 2,500 stores and e-commerce sites in 90 countries. Prior to that, Jeremy was Chairman and CEO of The Body Shop from 2013 to 2017. He also previously spent time at Sainsbury’s and, as Brand Director, he was the architect of the grocer’s turnaround in 2005 which saw a decade of growth after years in decline. He is the former Managing Director of L’Oréal UK and, as Innovation Director for Coca-Cola Europe, he invented Coke Zero. Jeremy is currently the Chairman of Kantar’s Sustainability Transformation Practice.

In this episode, recorded live on stage at the Richmond Retail and E-commerce Directors’ Forum, Jeremy and Natalie discuss:

  • Why some retail businesses fail and how to avoid becoming a statistic.
  • How to embark on a successful turnaround strategy.
  • The importance of perpetual innovation and how Jeremy uncovered an opportunity to create Coke Zero.
  • ESG – addressing the intention-action gap and FMCG best practices. 
  • Customer loyalty and doubling down on your top 20% of customers.

You can watch in full on YouTube.

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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 the reasons why retail leaders get stuck, the evolution of bricks & mortar retail, and how retailers can ensure their staff are motivated and engaged.

Other topics include:

  • What is the future of stores and how should we be measuring success?
  • Which brands does Brian admire and what are they getting right?
  • 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 dispel the myths behind Blockbuster’s demise. Learn why Jim believes it was fear – not Netflix – that killed Blockbuster.

They also explore whether we may see a revival of the Blockbuster brand and broader leadership lessons, including how to avoid being disrupted during periods of turbulence.

Other topics include:

  • 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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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 retail technology trends.

They explore the evolution of quick commerce, why Deliveroo won’t chase 15-minute delivery and moving into non-food to “bring the whole high street to the customer”.

Other topics covered include: learnings from the restaurant sector, supermarket collaboration, voice commerce and frictionless checkout.

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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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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.

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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