With the theme "Reengineering Retail," the cocktail reception to kick off the WWD/DNR CEO Summit at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park had many executives musing about personal experiences.
And the guests did not lack opinions about needed changes in retail's future as they enjoyed vistas of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
Graziano de Boni, president and chief executive officer of Valentino North America, had a lively conversation with Alex Bolen, chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta, about what should be changed at retail.
"The consumer is reenginering retail for us in the ways they are shopping on the Internet," Bolen noted.
De Boni, meanwhile, noted, "We need to think more holistically. People more and more want to have an exciting, fulfilling, rewarding, cool-feeling experience. We are not addressing what used to be called the primary need anymore. We are not even addressing a secondary need anymore. We are addressing a pure psychological need. It's luxury, entertainment, pleasure."
Thuy Tranthi, president of Celine in the U.S., said that in luxury, the experience is key. "We need to always find ways to make it unique," she said. "I recently had an experience of connection with a particular sales associate. They came and romanced me with the product and followed up, by calling. It was a very personalized service."
New Zealand designer Trelise Cooper concurred, "Retail must connect emotionally. It has to touch people in many ways. A lot of times, you can go into a store and feel great and come out feeling terrible. Or the opposite: You can walk in feeling bad and come out happy. It's called retail therapy."
Haro Kaldjian, chief operating officer of Intermix, noted, "The future in retail is in specialty retail stores that carry multiple brands. We carry 100 plus vendors in our stores. We are able to mix and match with different deliveries throughout the year. We are not locked in with any vendors to carry long term. They sell more, we buy more; if they sell less, we buy less. We have the advantage of doing that."
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"It's really hard sometimes. I think I have a reputation for being really tough and aggressive and pushy but I really am a very shy person who wants to be liked, and that's the conflict constantly. There's something that takes hold - I want people to like me, I don't want to be mean - but if I see something that just cries out to be answered, I go for it," says renowned NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell. (📷: @axeldupeux)