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."Part of the recipe is communication, said some executives. "Things are moving so quickly that those who are leading the pack are seamless in their communication within the organization," said Patrick Guadagno, president and chief operating officer of wholesale at Versace USA.
As for his best retail experience, Guadagno mentioned a recent trip to the Apple store on Fifth Avenue. "I was in and out of the store in five," he recalled. "I needed a new cord, and they came back with the piece and put my credit card into a device. It was a luxury of service."
Ari Hoffman, ceo of Gant USA, is also an Apple fan. "My favorite store is the Apple store,'' he said. "It's my dream store because the product is exciting, the service is actually friendly. And they solve your problems. They make something complicated into something simple, from design to service to product."