Paul Charron, Robin Lewis, Nancy Berger, Marc Mastronardi, Daren Hull and Mark Bozek.

Want to be a radical?

It’s not always about creating something new from scratch. Redeploying existing assets using a different mind-set can evoke the change needed for the current retail landscape.

That was the key theme of a panel discussion at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan that was hosted by the Fashion Group International Inc. and The Robin Report on Tuesday morning, in collaboration with SAP and sponsored by Marie Claire. Other sponsors included Cotton Inc., Shoptalk, NPD, A.T. Kearney, Alvanon, Li & Fung and Goldman Sachs. The panel was titled “Retail Radicals.” Participants were Marc Mastronardi, executive vice president for business development at Macy’s Inc.; Daren Hull, senior vice president, technology, stores at West Elm Digital for Williams-Sonoma Inc., and Mark Bozek, founder of Live Rocket. Paul R. Charron, former chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne Inc., moderated the discussion.

Robin Lewis, ceo of The Robin Report, opened the event discussing Steve Jobs of Apple Inc.

“Perhaps the most radical thinker was Steve Jobs, who on Jan. 9, 2007, said ‘Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.’ That was an understatement. What he should have said was ‘Today, we are going to change the world,’” Lewis said.

He was referring to how the iPhone has “flipped traditional retail on its head,” given how there are five billion phones and each one is “attached to a human [that creates one’s] own personal marketplace.”

Charron noted how this was a historic time in retail and how companies need to reimagine their assets and their relationship with their customers. “It’s about a rethinking of what the world could be, as opposed to what is,” he said.

Among the key points, Hull said being a retail radical is about “finding people or like-minded people who want to focus on innovation.” He also emphasized that one still has to “engage the customer for selling to occur. So what’s the behavior change that you want? What are your tools to change that?”

As for the process to evoke any change, Hull advised attendees to show one’s street credibility to execute, and then make sure to have a plan to take some of the existing work of team members off their plates so they have the time to work on what’s new.

Mastronardi spoke about seeing an endgame where if one believes an idea to be true, then there’s a need to have both the passion to knock down those walls and the execution skills to make it work. He also said it is “easier to leverage assets that exist than creating something from nothing.” The Macy’s executive spoke about the retailer’s new social selling model that his team created, and how the company’s 130,000 sales associates have unlocked their talent and creativity to work on social selling videos to microinfluence their local networks.

Mastronardi also spoke about his traditional retail background and how the wide range of experiences has helped him think through the process from product to customer. “Where do consumers hang out? Can Macy’s own brand be there? If yes, how do you monetize that? How can I create value and how do I bring together who I need to get to where the consumer is spending their time, energy and money?” he said. The Macy’s executive also told attendees that as he started to think about new business concepts, he made a point of meeting with leaders in all sectors to ask questions and get some ideas. “By tapping into some fundamental themes, I found that they were not all that different [from sector to sector because] there were commonalities that one can draw threads through,” he said.

Bozek said, “If you’re a radical, then you have to be successful at it. If you are going to disrupt, you have to do [actually] it, and [then the idea] must be scalable for it to be disruptive.”

The Live Rocket founder said it’s okay to fail sometimes because one needs some “scar tissue” to work through the process to understand as one goes along what will work and what might not.

 

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