At the intersection of sustainability, design and technology, Another Tomorrow is an inspiring, lucid and enlightening startup that ‘bakes in’ the circular economy to its whole business model.
The founder and CEO, Vanessa Barboni Hallik, kindly invited me to her Bleeker Street store when I was in #NYC a fortnight ago, and despite the early morning noise of film crews, leaf blowers and garbage collection (!) we covered a lot of ground about how one starts a brand that’s sustainable ‘ab initio’. Vanessa covers sourcing, marketplaces, being a point of discovery, the plans for scaling and reselling, values and culture – it’s a tour de force of things to consider in setting up a direct to consumer brand for a modern consumer. I particularly loved the combination of vision with analysis with execution.
RetailX marks its return to face-to-face events with the launch of the first RetailX Nexus event, to be held this autumn.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, RetailX was known for its in-person events, from roundtables and private dinners to think tank meetings. Now the company, an InternetRetailing sister company, is unveiling a landmark return to face-to-face, supplementing the digital events that have become commonplace during the pandemic.
Mark Pigou, co-founder of RetailX, says: “We have weathered a tsunami of ‘pivoting to digital’ over the past 18 months and we have learnt that whilst digital can provide an effective and engaging channel to deliver content, it cannot replace the clear advantages and benefits of face to face events.
“You cannot sit in front of a screen all day and you cannot have the kind of meaningful conversations and interaction that leads to real business benefits that live in person delivers. Digital will always have its place at the table but it simply cannot replace live events nor can it deliver comparable experiences and results.”
The new RetailX Nexus event, to be held on October 7, rethinks the in-person event for a post-Covid audience. It will focus on the three key strategic priorities that are now moving quickly up the board agendas at ecommerce and multichannel retail businesses: sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, and customer intelligence – about how automated technologies including machine-learning and AI will transform the retail customer experience.
Numbers will be limited to 100 senior retailers for an event that will run under strict Chatham House rules, thus giving participants the chance to think aloud in discussions, sharing experiences while learning from what others share.
Ian Jindal, chief executive and co-founder of RetailX, says: “The Nexus event is about taking back the space to think strategically. In this event we will relish the debate, the silent moment to reflect and question, and a safe space to change your mind. It’s for a corpus of leaders who can take the many ideas that this event will offer and coalesce into action.
“Senior leaders don’t need to debate simple issues, so we’ve focused upon the central questions that are currently affecting, engaging and testing the whole organisation and have a real impact that’s being felt both by customers and colleagues.”
The event, to be held at Etc. Venues in London between 8.30am and 3.30pm, with after party networking from 3.35pm onwards, has been designed in close collaboration with an 18-member RetailX advisory panel that includes senior retailers and industry figures including Sienne Veit, group digital product and platform director at Kingfisher, David Kohn, customer and ecommerce director at Heals, Georgina Stoaling, head of ecommerce at Superdrug, Simon Forster, former CEO at Selfridges, Jennifer Roebuck, chief customer officer at Ted Baker, Robin Philips, chief executive and founder of The WatchShop Group and Donna Chen, marketing and digital director at House of Benney,.
RetailX content strategy and event event development director Anthony Parker says: “When we went out to speak to our advisory board and others, the response, after 18 months of Covid, was to say, ‘Just let us speak with each other. There’s so much that you can learn from conversations.’
“That’s very important to the structure of the event. After each of our central sessions there’ll be a 45-minute table discussion guided by a member of our advisory board. It’s a way of translating what’s up on the stage to a discussion among 10 retail leaders – from chief executives to company founders and directors – about what that means to their businesses.”
52 pages of facts, case studies and analysis, including:
— Zalando SE was the first retailer to make it compulsory for the brands selling via its platform to measure their business sustainability, substantially reducing the fashion industry’s impact on the environment; — Supermarkets are working to reduce food waste across their supply chains. Tesco‘s contribution has dropped by 200,000 tonnes over the past three years; — C&A avoids using nearly 1.1 billion cubic metres of water – the equivalent of 440,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, thanks to sourcing organic and Better Cotton Initiative.
Chris Poad, Managing Director, Online at Tesco PLC joins us in the studio for a wide-ranging and extensive discussion. Fresh from a series of senior roles at Amazon (heading Fulfilment by Amazon, then Director, Amazon Business International), Chris has returned to the UK to take up the reins at Tesco’s online activities – just in time to be in the eye of the COVID storm!
We segue from his career to the Tesco response – an impressive and sustained activity at scale – and we learn about the values that drove the work, the decision-making approaches, and how the team runs under such great pressure.
The interview is chock-full of insights, expressed with clarity and openness – it’s a privileged view inside Tesco at a defining time. There are too many quotable nuggets to list here, but the title of this podcast references a perceptive classification of decision-making – jump to 22m10s if you can’t bear to wait! It’s worth it.
Our thanks to Chris for giving us so much time, and we’ll pick up with him again post-Christmas to see how the peak-upon-peak of trading turned out.
A bumper edition for the stifling dog-days of August!
We kick off with an in-depth chat with Mark Wright, Group Operations Director at Fat Face. Mark’s got an incredible track record in retail – online, offline and multichannel – with stints as head of trading at M&S and as Managing Director, Omnichannel and Jack Wills. His role at Fat Face covers all operations and trading and so it was interesting to get his reflections upon the lockdown, recovery and impact. Mark’s a direct and generous guest and so there’s no holding back!
After Mark we hear from Murray Lambell, the VP of Trading at eBay UK. Murray’s role is to help major retailers and brands get onto the eBay platform and there are some suprises here, with no hard sell. 27 million (yes, million) active customers on eBay are the “bait” for sellers, and Murray’s team look at what they’re are searching for, identify gaps, and then approach retailers and brands to take up that demand. Murray shares with us the partnership approach and, as if a jolt were needed this year, points out that 60,000 sellers have joined eBay in the last 90 days! Busy, busy times indeed.
Still in lockdown limbo, we use the internet to speak with two guests from the beauty and electricals sectors.
First up is Aaron Winsloe, the Head of eCommerce USA for The Hut Group. We spoke with Aaron in his new office just before the group results were announced – an impressive 24% revenue growth to £1.1bn and a 22% increase in profits. With 66% of group turnover coming from the international operations, it was a timely moment to catch up with Aaron, and in particular the trading and learning experience over COVID.
Next up is John Roberts, founder and CEO of AO.com. John has some very pithy sayings, as well as a lovely ‘origin story’ for how ‘Appliances Online’ (as it was 20 years ago) was founded. This interview was recorded as a keynote for IRX Engage’s inaugural digital event, and in discussion we hear about the ‘pivot’ to a direct-selling brand and the values that underpin the business’ success. The sound quality is more “phone line” than “BBC Studio” but John is such a compelling speaker that we had to share the interview.
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!
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.
The key to jobs in the future is not college but compassion | Aeon Essays – Twin argument of ‘caring/emotional’ work in the future and the fact that never-ending education is not a solution. Example being an overqualified doctor working 80 hours a week, but lacking empathy… when AI can diagnose more effectively where is the new value?”The US economists W Norton Grubb and Marvin Lazerson call the belief in more schooling as the solution to every labour problem the ‘education gospel’. As Grubb argued in a 2005 talk, having more education tends to help individuals find better work, but that doesn’t make schooling a good overall economic strategy. In fact, he said, 30 to 40 per cent of workers in developed countries already have more education than their jobs demand.”
Opinion | The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence – “Service jobs of love” and ‘strength negate strength’. The impact of AI will concentrate power in the hands of the us and china, and leave only ’emotional’ and interface jobs.
Note too the characterisation of current AI as ‘spreadsheets on steroids’ – main point being that solutions are domain- and purpose-specific at present, not overarching ‘intelligence’.