As Lockdown continued, we caught up with our guests ‘over the web’.
Our first guest is Gracia Amico: chair, non-executive advisor and experienced CEO. In the past, she’s held senior digital and commercial roles at Burberry, TopShop and Hobbs, as well as CEO at Pets Pyjamas. After a period as Head of Digital Operations at Sun Capital, Gracia is now a non-executive Director at Stitched (the online curtains and blinds seller) and Chair of the pet technology company, Pet Mate.
With Gracia we learn about the dynamics of the ‘pet’ market, discuss the role of the CEO and the skills needed as Chair, and touch on an investor view of the skills needed to thrive as we emerge from lockdown.
Robin Phillips is our next guest. Robin is the CEO of The Watch Shop, but his career has seen him cover the gamut of ecommerce. He was Ecommerce Director at Waitrose, then Director of Omnichannel for Boots, before joining Kurt Geiger as Director of Digital. Robin’s experience then across fashion, food and pharmacy mean that he’s got a unique take on retail over the COVID lockdown, as well as some interesting insights on how The Watch Shop can be a brand platform for watch brands to sell.
Thoroughly grounded in London, I luckily had some interviews from the ’time when travel was allowed’ and so we hear from Rikard Frost, Chief Consumer Officer of Alexander Wang Inc, when we visited him in New York City in January 2020. Then, further back in time, we chat with Pieter Heij, Multichannel Director at De Bijenkorf, the Netherland’s premier department store (and part of the Selfridges group). We chatted with Pieter just before an autumn dinner in Amsterdam – such proximity is much missed as we socially distance!
Just released, the latest episode of the podcast in with Jamie and I chat about the NRF’s Big Show 2020 in New York, and our store tour there. We were an official podcast partner and took advantage of the booth there to do an interview with Laura Padfield, who runs strategy and development for M&S’ International activities…
HMV announced on 28 December, 2018 that they were appointing KPMG as administrators, following “a “tsunami” of retail challenges, including business rate levels and the move to digital”, according to Hilco, the restructuring group who rescued the retailer in 2013.
This is sad news for the retail sector, and for music-lovers who remember the age of dominance of HMV and Virgin Megastores (who at the time were challenging HMV as the ‘traditional giant’).
Hilco mention a ‘tsunami’ and I think that this is the key point. No one factor killed off HMV – not digital downloads, not rates, not changes in consumption and the music industry… Rather, these factors have all been accelerating and working in unison.
This is the inflexion point where a slope turns into a cliff.
I was invited to comment on the news both on Sky News and on LBC that evening and my clips are below.
It was a pleasure to travel to Baden (not far from Zurich) to present at the E-nnovation Week (https://e-nnovationweek.com/) event. Congratulations to Carlo Terreni and his team for putting on an impressive multitrack, multiday conference and expo.
I took as my theme the growing role of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in multichannel retail… what is it, what are the main elements and how can we use it. I focused on AI in image-recognition and looked at examples from shelf-edge scanners to custom tailoring; checkout-free stores to product search.
If you’d like a copy of the presentation or to discuss further then do let me know.
I was invited to address the EU’s Joint Research Centre team as part of their series on Megatrends. I took as my theme the changes in consumerism and how they would affect not only retailers and consumption in the short term, but also the relationships between state, services, brands and commerce. It was a stimulating opportunity to take the last four years of IREU Top500 research, the ongoing changes and disruptions in our industry and place these in the context of social and scientific policy-making.
The JRC’s base is in Ispra, high in the mountains, on the site of a former nuclear research centre… The setting is very ‘James Bond’ – massive security (a well-dressed, very serious nuclear police force!) and then a campus that blends the look of a modern high school with a moonbase. I was expecting solid concrete blast doors but – although the reactor is still in use for research – the environment was serious rather than max security.
The welcome was exceptional and I was treated to a tour of the information centre where you could see not only the major workstream of the EU policymakers, but also the contributing science to assess and support those goals. It is a multidisciplinary and multinational place.
After my presentation I spent a couple of hours in the electric vehicle testing unit, seeing how electric cars are tested, safety is assured and the impact on the national grids are calculated. Not only is each vehicle charger tested for how it (alone and in concert) can affect the grid, but how the grid’s flux and stress will affect each one. I’ve attached a photo of one of the test rooms that checks for electro-magnetic emissions during charging, rest, load…
It was a fascinating day where I was met with enthusiasm, patience (as things were explained to me) and a clear passion for their role – ensuring that decision-making and policy are based on the very best evidential and practical base.