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Retail Week Conference 2011 round up

By FashionUnited


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Top Retail industry insiders gathered for 2011’s Retail Week Conference, held at the Hilton London Metropole, over two days last week (16th and 17th March). This year also marked the 20th anniversary of the industry’s most authoritative and

innovative event with BT sponsoring a party to bring together leaders, entrepreneurs and retailers who are responsible for shaping the industry.

With 1000 plus attendees it was the largest to date with a host of brand new speakers; David Parfect, UK and country sales manager, Facebook, Ian Crook, marketing director Tesco.com, Andrew Bracey, CFO, Ocado, John Ashton, Head of Ecommerce at Screwfix and Gerald Ratner.

nd for the first time, the conference was mobile with an exclusive sponsorship, 2ergo. Google’s director, Peter Fitzgerald, backed the move telling delegates at the Conference that a mobile optimised website should be their top priority for investment.

FashionUnited has recapped some of the key ideas and opinions to come out of the conference.

Andy Hornby, chief executive of health and beauty retailer, Alliance Boots, said ‘we are not going to see consumer spending growth over the next two years. We have only just started the process of consumers reducing their debt.’

He warned of continuing obstacles such as minor wage growth in households and rising taxes.

Consumer worries were also voiced by Richard Pennycook of Morrisons, who said to Reuters that ‘there is another dip in consumer sentiment. We were surprised how well Christmas went and now we have headed South again as we expected.’ He called for ‘colleague and customer engagement’ to maintain spend.

Rob Templeman, chief executive of Debenhams, efficiently, summed up a ‘changed consumer mindset;’ ‘They are looking at what they need to have, not what they want to have.’

Sir Philip Green, Topshop owner and Retail maestro, gave an inspired talk, hoping that this week’s Budget will see some help for consumers.

Green attacked landlords allowing company voluntary arrangements to go through because they don’t want ‘thousands of empty shops,’ but said it was ‘inevitable’ because it’s in landlord’s interests. He continued, ‘if every retailer in the room picked 100 stores that they wanted to trade in, there would be a hell of a lot of empty stores.’

Green also addressed rising manufacturing costs in Asia and encouraged some manufacturing to return to the UK to off-lay this – Arcadia will be taking this course.

Whilst ,former Asda boss, Archie Norman, called for ‘retailers to close around four stores per year even when sales are healthy.’ He added, ‘In healthy times retailers don’t close stores they accumulate the walking dead.’

The conference comes on the back of a bad February with fall in trade.

The British Retail Consortium noted a fall in like-for-like sales by 0.4% and a meagre total sales rise by only 1.1%. This was the poorest performance for nearly 2 years. Stephen Robertson, director of the BRC, expressed ‘concern’ over the negative figures.

Whatever the outcome of the impending Budget, the general message of the conference was clear; it’s tough times for the high street for the foreseeable future.

Image: Topshop
20th Anniversary
Retail Week Conference