LONDON — Scott Emmons is leaving his position as head of Neiman Marcus’ iLab — a department he founded in 2012 to drive retail innovation through technology — and joining retail consultancy TheCurrent Global as chief technology officer.
The move is a result of the shifting retail climate and Emmons’ conviction that the culture of legacy organizations is holding back innovation.
According to Emmons, internal innovation teams are no longer equipped to deliver the results the industry needs, as traditional retailers remain resistant to change on a broader level.
Faced with increasing competition by digital players, retailers introduced innovation teams to deliver change across operations, marketing and corporate culture yet remained focused on only building solutions internally. This meant that results could only be “sporadic,” according to Emmons.
The executive is expected to discuss his departure from Neiman’s and his new role at TheCurrent Global this afternoon during a panel presentation called “Meet the Retail Innovators” at the National Retail Federation conference in New York.
He introduced innovations such as memory mirrors and new fitting-room technology on the shop floors of Neiman Marcus, which is looking to transform but currently has a debt of $4.5 billion lingering over the business.
“Corporate innovation programs seem to start strong and sharp, but over time they are devoured and diminished by surrounding day-to-day business processes, making it nearly impossible to maintain momentum,” added Emmons. “It’s one thing to talk to agility and risk, but when you’re not built for either, measured by cost reductions and operating within a silo, results tend only to be incremental. It’s time for that to change. For fashion and retail brands to succeed, they need to shift from an internally driven culture to one focused on open innovation with the world’s top technology and talent.”
The key, according to Emmons, is a new approach to recruiting and a more open perspective that allows for the sharing of ideas and that sees companies maintain relationships with start-ups and different innovative solution providers.
With his new position at TheCurrent Global — which works with the likes of Burberry, Gucci, Swarovski and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton — Emmons will aim at incorporating new technology solutions across multiple brand and retail partners.
“This methodology is what the industry needs — an agile workforce that can act as an extension of your team,” he added.
Liz Bacelar, chief executive officer of TheCurrent Global, said that the consultancy can bring Emmons’ technology know-how to a wide network of executives looking to “lead the innovation conversation.” It also delivers custom solutions by drawing from a wide ecosystem of start-up partners, tech companies and entrepreneurs.
“Real innovation can only happen today by tackling problems in a new way. We all know it is insanity to expect different results using the same approaches. With the help of outside experts, businesses can achieve growth in a new way, with both speed and efficiency,” added Bacelar.