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A review of the FT Future of Retail event by Financial Times

FT Future of Retail Conference, 20 Sep, 2018

  • Knightsbridge, London, United Kingdom
  • Styleintelligence verdict (of 5 possible):

The third instalment of the FT Future of Retail conference attracted an excellent lineup of presenters and a super audience for a day at Jumeirah Tower, Cadogan Place, Knightsbridge.

Speakers included Doug Gurr from Amazon UK. Despite Mr Gurr talking for about 15 minutes but not saying a lot, there were quite a few ears focused on the content. Could it have been a scare-tactic by Amazon to present at the event? We will never know.

Doug Gurr on stage talking about digitization and how it helps rural areas in the UK.

We spoke to the Amazon Fashion Marketplace team but did not get anywhere as can be expected from Amazon people. However, we learned that Amazon Fashion [STIQ's Amazon Fashion report] experience the same problems with returns in Germany as does all other online retailers [STIQ's Returns report].

Klaas Mantel from Shell (whom by the way is a very good presenter) talked about their vision for the forecourt store which is currently contributing $6bn revenue to Shell's coffers. Klaas showed a number of interesting stats of how they see the forecourt staying relevant in the future where there are electric vehicles which may not need topping up as often as a petrol or diesel vehicle. Shell's aim is to generate 50% from non-fuel products in the longer term and data is a large part of this:

  • Shell branded forecourts globally: 44,000
  • Forecourts producing data: 6,000
  • Countries active in: 22
  • Annual transactions: 10bn

Tommy Hilfiger's Global CEO, Daniel Grieder, spoke about the brand's view of the store of the future (Regent Street, London) which include RFID, magic mirrors and other paraphernalia.

Daniel Grieder presenting Tommy Hilfiger's "store of the future" and 2020+ vision.

Ross Bailey of AppearHere spoke about new retail models. An interesting anecdote was's move into pop-up retail as a marketing piece.

We also spoke to Ocado about their future plans and their focus remains firmly in Europe and North America. One of the issues is the possibility of the system being copied by the many competent robotics suppliers in the far east. [See our Goods to Person Robotics report].

Marcia Kilgore, founder of FitFlop, Soaper Duper, Bliss Spa, Soap & Glory talked about her latest venture, Beauty Pie (which sounds suspiciously similar to PewDiePie, the well known YouTuber) and how she sees the world.

"Disruptors are just people doing things better for customers. That's it.", Marcia Kilgore, FT Future of Retail Conference, 2018

While Marcia has a lot of experience in the cosmetics industry and a few successful businesses, one may wonder if Beauty Pie is going to fare as well. The main question being if cosmetics actually work (such as infinity masks, etc) versus marketing spend (branding). Beauty Pie charge a subscription fee which allow its customers access to the best factories supplying the top cosmetic brands. Ok, but will manufacturers be using the same ingredients?

Dan Warne of Deliveroo was also scheduled to talk about their great company and its growth under the heading the non-retail perspective. However, with Uber's romancing the company it was perhaps too much to stand up at a conference when your company might be sold for $$$'s.

Mike Coupe, CEO of J. Sainsbury's, opened the conference and gave his view on what the market looks like these days and some insights to the current consolidation. No singing unfortunately... He was followed (after two more sessions) by Andrew Higginson, Chairman of Morrisons who was happy to be the third largest grocery retailer in the UK and talked about some of the transformation under his watch since his appointment in October 2014. Both very interesting guys with awesome insights. Mr Higginson focused on Morrison's manufacturing base and its wholesale piece while Mr Coupe made a few references to China as the place to look at when it comes to where retailing will be in the future.

Oracle's Innovation Strategy Director, Antony Welfare came up on the stage to talk to normal people about blockchain but probably made parts of the audience more confused - nothing new for blockchain presentations. I secretely wish someone would produce a super-simple case study for blockchain so operational and strategy people can understand the relevance and ask relevant questions.

Antony Welfare presented 16 use cases for retail and supply chain... none which made sense, but it looked good!

Q: if Blockchain is so good, what if one person or company in the chain does not have access to the software/enabling technology? What if two or more people conspire to add frauduent information from the start of the chain?

We also managed to have a conversation with Waleed Ayoub CTO at Rubikloud, an AI solution with a current focus on the retail vertical. The strapline is that retailers can make better decisions once they have all the data neatly presented to them. At the moment the company offer a back-end SupplyChain and a front-end user journey product.


Our verdict:

All in all, the FT Future of Retail Conference is one of the better quality conferences we have visited. As with most conferences you do not get to hear much new things you haven't heard before from the speakers, but the sheer quality of C-level attendees which only a company such as the FT can attract more than make up for any lack of news on stage.

Images taken by the author. May be subject to copyright.


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