Retail Doctor Group had the pleasure of hosting Bernie Brookes, CEO of Myer, as keynote speaker at our Fit For Business breakfast seminars.

As an aside, Bernie has always supported retail as a developer of present and future retail talent, an its advocacy.

Bernie first presented at one of our events in late 2009, and in June 2014, it is clear that the central message of what it is to be a retailer is consistently similar in the basics, yet dramatically different in both the customer experience, utilisation of technology, and the skills and roles retailers will fulfill going forward.

For those naysayers that suggest the days of the department store retailer demise are imminent, there appears to be signs of a global renaissance, as consumers are increasingly drawn to the theatre of retail that department stores are well placed to deliver.

The work of retailers such as Macy’s, Galeries Lafayette, Selfridges, Sainsbury, Marks & Spencer, and across many Japanese and Korean department stores, showcases the fact that department stores are  increasingly adapting to changing consumer demands.

Brookes believes that department stores around the world are learning to adapt: “We are seeing globalisation at an ever increasing rapid rate, but we are seeing a lot of the regional and large department stores learning how to thrive and grow, particularly when you add their online figures”.

As Brookes points out, customer expectations are higher than ever, as the increasingly savvy consumer shops first by category, then by store, then by brand, seeking recognition and reward for their purchase and potential loyalty, spending locally and globally with integrated omni-channels.

Although it’s not all beer and skittles as consumers locally are impacted by costs in non-discretionary expenditure such as utilities and education, while retailers fight with increasing competition, rising wages, and rental costs.

Bernie saw best practice in the following retailer examples across a number of trends:

  • Globalisation – Costco, Inditex, Asos, H&M
  • Price focus vs value focus – Costco, Aldi, LÓccitane
  • Theatre and fun – Macy’s, Selfridges, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hamleys, FAO Schwarz
  • Personalisation and customisation – Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, Shoes of Prey
  • Digital disruption – Walgreens, Apple, Saks
  • Loyalty and data utilisation – Qantas, Estee Lauder, Myer

One theme that was clear across these and other trends raised by Brookes is the need to provide a strong customer experience, for the retailer to focus on what they are good at, and to deliver this brilliantly.

Being business fit and particularly great at something is a far better position for today’s retailer than being reasonable at everything. Stay ahead of the curve and true to your unique brand proposition, be inspired by the best, but implement what works for your business and what will resonate with your customer.

First published by Inside Retail, June 2014