LONDON — The shop floor is alive and thriving — although it needs a different type of nourishment in this era of digital and mobile commerce. Brand leaders from both sides of the Atlantic and from industries ranging from fashion to cycling and beverages gathered at the Wellcome Collection near King’s Cross St. Pancras station here to hear about what’s working — and what’s not — at the WWD Retail 20/20 Forum, “The New Store Experience.”
Speakers as diverse as Ramdane Touhami of L’Officine Universelle Buly, Dirty Lemon’s Zak Normandin and Rapha’s Darren Read and Caroline Crosswell talked about the importance of cultivating and educating sales people — the actors on the great retail stage — and transmitting the essence of a brand — during a group cycle ride, at a pop-up cocktail bar or at a fragrance talk.
Among the big themes that emerged were authenticity and the importance of playing to one’s strengths as a brand, and ensuring that the human contact between staff and shopper remains strong.
“Customers want to enjoy themselves when they are shopping — that’s the first and most important thing,” said Simon Burstein, chief executive officer and founder of The Place London. “It’s the experience: Shops are a theater, the sales staff are the actors and the clothes are the props. If you make your connection, you will have a success.”
The week was busy in the run-up to the forum, with luxury jeweler Jessica McCormack and Colleen Caslin, the company’s ceo, hosting a lunch and a cocktail in honor of WWD’s editorial director James Fallon at the brand’s flagship on Carlos Place in Mayfair, with guests including Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods; Megha Mittal, chairman of Escada; Kristina Blahnik, chief executive officer of Manolo Blahnik; investor Eiesha Bharti Pasricha; Simon Liebel, founder and ceo of Entourage Collection; Roksanda Ilincic; Sagra Maceira de Rosen, chairman of Naga Group, and Massimiliano Binda, general manager of The Connaught hotel, which catered the lunch.
WWD also cohosted a dinner with The Palmeraie at London’s Ham Yard Hotel, with guests who included industry leaders and designers such as Anya Hindmarch; Emilia Wickstead; Osman Yousefzada; Henry Holland; Jenny Packham; Clare McKeeve, founder and ceo of Luxcite, and Anna Sweeting and Montse Suarez, managing partners of Vaultier 7. Retail was on the agenda once again, with designers and business leaders committed to driving their businesses with fuel from bricks, clicks, taps and swipes.