Retail Week Live 2016 – Our top three takeouts

* 3 min read

Sonia Whiteley Guest, group commercial director and Clare Leelandbusiness development manager

Retail Week Live attracts a mix of the smartest, most innovative minds every year. It’s a great opportunity to get a handle on the innovations, strategies and trends emerging within the retail sector. 

The calibre of speakers is always high. This year we caught a number of fascinating, illuminating sessions. Topics were diverse – from the ever-changing digital landscape to more timeless insights. Some things, like the essential features of customer loyalty for instance, never change.  

Of the plethora of talks, panels and presentations on offer, several figures in particular really made our ears prick up. A truly powerful talk hinges on knowledge and insight as much it does charisma and personality. These three, all distinctive characters in their own right, delivered our key takeouts of Retail Week Live 2016.

1. Henry Patterson – Gen Z, digital and the next wave of entrepreneurs

What can we say about Henry Patterson? A prodigious young entrepreneur who hasn’t even entered his teens, Henry has already gained nods from the highest echelons of the business community, including Mr Richard Branson.

He started out selling manure, moved onto sweets and now makes upwards of £1,000 per week. Oh and he’s also entered the world of children’s books. Not Before Tea, the lifestyle brand Henry launched in 2014, is the fastest growing children’s lifestyle brand in the UK.

Whether he’s just a really good self-promoter or the real deal, Henry is a compelling speaker. What we found most interesting was seeing an instinctively digital mind in action. Thinking like this has already, and will continue to, transform retail.

Truly a product of this era, two instances were particularly telling. Reeling off an analogy about being told off for selling trading cards at school, Henry revealed that he’d be willing to take payments via PayPal as a solution. Even more fascinating, to Henry a bricks-and-mortar store is a “store that’s not online”. Incredible stuff.

 2. Angus Thirlwell – Customer loyalty, not just about price

Hotel Chocolat co-founder and all-round cocoa guru Angus Thirlwell shared some memorable insights into the world of customer loyalty. In his view, loyalty isn’t the best way of looking at things, instead opting for the term customer engagement. According to Thirwell, retailers should avoid repeated discounting.  

He explained his reasoning this way: “If you’re friends with someone who’s giving you free stuff, you return because of the freebies. There’s no real relationship there. If they stopped, you’d stop going back.”

The approach Hotel Chocolat follows is a focus on real, personal methods of rewarding loyalty. If Hotel Chocolat identifies that a customer is repeatedly returning to the same store, it rewards them with a thank you in hard copy, a physical letter and a chocolate-related gift.

3. Ray Kelvin, Ted Baker – Onboarding, company culture and doing things differently

Last but not least is the inimitable Ray Kelvin. An enigmatic and polarising figure, Ray’s talk – filled with risqué and potentially controversial antics – was explosive to say the least.

Kelvin doesn’t have a desk – and his company follows this same unconventional philosophy. New hires are given bright, Ted Baker hoodies so everybody knows they’re a starter. For newbies too, senior company figures are known by their drink of choice (Brew am I), not their names. The desire to do things differently is deeply embedded into the culture of the brand. Of course, it’s not all fun and games. This forward-thinking culture translates into a sense of pride which translates into a brilliant service.

Sadly, too many retailers don’t value enough the importance of carving out a more distinctive approach. It would be great to see the big four adopting a different way of doing things, but they might well be too far gone. There’s a gap in the market here and we can’t wait to see who fills it.