It’s dizzying, trying to make sense of how the roller coaster stock market, China’s slowing economy, America’s gradually improving job landscape, currency volatility, declining fuel costs, and the Federal Reserve impact on the consumer psyche and, in turn, the fashion industry.
Apparel retailing has been holding up, buoyed by Seventies trends and Boho styles, fast fashion, outlet shopping, and strength in dresses, active and ath-leisure wear. Plus denim is seeing a resurgence. Retailers, designers and brands are anticipating that the second half of this year will be better than the first, which is crucial because escalating presidential politics next year could seriously distract from shopping the malls and online.
With that complicated backdrop, the WWD Apparel & Retail Summit, where more than 300 C-Suite executives gather to get a handle on the industry issues of the day to help them deal with the future, will be held Oct. 27-28 at The Pierre in Manhattan. It’s a platform for networking, learning and leaving with some different perspectives and ideas on how to better manage your business.
The upcoming WWD summit includes leaders from many of the biggest, highest-profile retail and fashion brands representing all channels of distribution and price points, among them Wal-Mart, Target, J.C. Penney, Amazon, Lululemon, Hudson’s Bay Co., Tory Burch, Warby Parker, Jimmy Choo and Valentino.
Merchants, M&A experts, techies, designers and bankers will take the stage to expound on everything from innovation and rethinking the store to economic pressures and the consumer mind-set. This year’s summit is themed “The New Face of Fashion” to reflect the recent spate of executive changes at the very highest levels of management, as well as how companies must adapt their merchandising and marketing to rapidly shifting consumer shopping habits in an omnichannel era.
The fashion and luxury sectors will be well represented with speakers including: Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative directors at Valentino; Tory Burch and Roger Farah, co-chief executive officers at Tory Burch; Pierre Denis, ceo of Jimmy Choo, and David Neville and Marcus Wainwright, co-ceos of Rag & Bone.
Influential keynoters from retail include:
• Brian C. Cornell, the new chairman and ceo of Target, which is gaining Wall Street confidence as it innovates digitally and recovers from its entry and withdrawal from Canada, while recently reporting a strong second quarter.
• Marvin Ellison, the new president and ceo of J.C. Penney Co., which is recapturing customers and continuing to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating regime of Ron Johnson.
• Kevin Mansell, chairman, ceo and president of Kohl’s, competing directly against J.C. Penney’s, had a disappointing second quarter but expects improvements going forward this year.
• David Jaffe, president and ceo of the Ascena Retail Group, which just purchased Ann Inc. thereby diversifying Ascena’s portfolio of specialty chains.
A series of short sessions on “brick-and-mortar innovators” to spark thinking about the future of physical stores and technologies shaping the shopping experience will include Neil Blumenthal, cofounder and co-ceo of Warby Parker; Dana Cho, partner at IDEO; Jane Ewing, senior vice president of business development of Wal-Mart U.S.; Kevin McKenzie, chief digital officer of Westfield Labs, and Rachel Shechtman, founder of Story.
Also set is a roundtable of M&A insiders, with Lisa Clyde, global head of consumer and retail investment banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Marc S. Cooper, vice chairman, Peter J. Solomon Company, and Kathy Elsesser, cohead, global consumer retail group, investment banking, Goldman Sachs.
Another roundtable will feature three who are new to their retail leadership roles: Liz Rodbell, president of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, which are renovating their sales floors and working hard to bolster the digital side of the businesses; Federica Marchionni, president and ceo of Lands’ End, which has a battery of new strategies geared to turnaround the business, and Laurent Potdevin, ceo, Lululemon Athletica, which seems back on track with improved results but has had to deal with some recalls.
Other top retailers addressing the changing face of fashion will be John C. Jay, president of global creative at Fast Retailing; Jeff Yurcisin, general manager and ceo at Shopbop, and vice president of clothing at Amazon Fashion.
Digital game-changers speaking include Nicolas Franchet, Facebook’s head of retail and e-commerce; Tim Kendall, head of product, Pinterest, and Varsha Rao, vice president of operations, Airbnb.
Sponsors for the summit who will be participating on stage include: Alexei Agratchev, ceo and cofounder, Retail Next; Aimee Kim, senior partner, McKinsey & Co.; Greg Petro, president and ceo, First Insight; Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president and group head of market insights, MasterCard Advisors; Harold D. Reiter, chairman and ceo, Herbert Mines Associates, talking with Ascena’s David Jaffe.