Retail Week Live

Contributor: Mark Gaydon, EMEA Regional Director, CBX Software

The annual Retail Week Live event in London provides a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with many movers and shakers within the British retail industry under one roof. It is a vibrant atmosphere and collection of people who were there to benefit from a diverse range of speakers, including Politicians, C-level retail executives and young dynamic entrepreneurs. From a solution provider’s perspective and as a representative of CBX software who operate at the heart of technology change, it was a great opportunity to hear from many inspiring retail executives.

These were a few highlights:

Anders Kristiansen, Chief Executive at New Look who is embarking on a 50 store roll out in China this year, quoted Henri Ford founder of the Ford Motor Company in the context of believing in yourself as a business leader. Henri Ford’s team would probably have recommended Henri created “faster horses” at that time! This helped to highlight the value in progression in these fast changing times.

Mike Coupe, CEO at Sainsbury’s used a pertinent quote by John F. Kennedy to re-enforce his vision for the retail group which was “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. Whilst holding to the values and integrity of a company like Sainsbury’s the introduction of the right technology at the right time will enable an ever demanding consumer to have the right choice of product at the right price.

Jim McCarthy, Chief Executive at Poundland discussed a number of wide ranging topics including the managing of an acquisition such as that recently announced of the 99P stores, to managing consumer expectation. How his company and those who work there must always behave in the right way, “for example in ethical sourcing … it is the responsibility of the company.” Mr. McCarthy also acknowledged how the pace of change is increasing and that technology will play a part in this change.

Richard Pennycook, Chief Executive at the Co-operative Group commented how even great leaders have blind spots and the secret to success is leveraging the talent in its team. Mr. Pennycook quoted the author Peter Drucker “Only three things occur naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership”. These messages are insightful and help us appreciate the value of new skill sets required in companies today, especially within technology transformation.

David Robinson, Chief Operating Officer at Argos shared the incredible progress the group had made following its five year change plan adoption. Two years into this plan, Argos is already providing an example in re-inventing the retail business model to the dinosaur retailers trying to play catchup. Argos has been open to change and embrace new ideas, not being fearful of changing its culture or creating opportunities for new partnerships and retail concessions.

Finally, I couldn’t resist spending time in the Innovation Campus where entrepreneurs were pitching their new technology ideas to a team of ‘dragons’. It was compelling to watch and exciting as the three finalists were awarded equal victory. These innovations and young dynamic presenters who will no doubt influence and shape the future is also symbolic of these times, where there is an appetite for healthy change, culture alignment and technology to make it happen.

A final thought that sprung to mind at Retail Week Live came from Francis Frei, a Professor at Harvard Business School in her article ‘Dare to be bad’ – “Excellence is being great at the things your customers value most”- a timely reminder for us all.


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