In late July 2016 Mishcon De Reya hosted a roundtable discussion on ‘Technology in Retail’ with a keynote address from Dr Pippa Malmgren author of her new book Signals. Pippa’s supermodel looks hide a razor sharp brain, which can spot trends before we have even thought of them. Please go back in time on LuxuryTopping and read her insightful view on the economy in November 2013.
Post-Brexit Armageddon had been forecasted with commentators saying that the UK would become isolated, taxed to the hilt and as poor as church mice. It was a brave Pippa who bucked the trend by giving an upbeat assessment on the UK, suggesting that we will see a massive influx of capital due to our safe haven qualities and the fact that we remain competitive compared to alternative destinations. Innovation will be key and manufacturing is now cheaper in parts of the UK than in China. However, it is up to us to make things happen, according to Pippa.Running through the debate on Technology in Retail was a key theme: ‘the customer is King’. A thought which was echoed by Head of Residential at Savills, Dominic Grace, during a breakfast hosted by Bob Weston, Chairman of Weston Homes, in September. Technical innovation has to serve the needs of shoppers by saving money, time and energy – the three pillars for retailers. Customers want instant results and they want to order on the move. Woe betide a retailer who is slow on delivery. This of course excludes the very top end luxury brands such as Hermes; we are all prepared to wait for our Birkin bag!The summer has been fabulous for retailers; retail sales are estimated to have increased 6.2% compared to August 2015 and the underlying pattern in the retail sector is still one of growth. However, Financial Times Weekend on 25 September struck a note of caution. Geoff Ruddell, retail analyst at Morgan Stanley, commented: ‘Clothes are going out of style and consumers are switching their spending away from apparel to an extent we have never seen before’. At the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit in San Francisco in May 2016, we were told by MasterCard that ‘we have too much stuff and customers want experiences not more things hanging in the wardrobe’. They should know! Clever retailers such as the creative team at Capital & Counties led by Beverley Churchill, the inspiration behind the success of Covent Garden, know that it is the combined experience – shops, food and entertainment – which has the consumer coming back for more.
Thanks as ever go to Susan Freeman, Partner in the Real Estate department of Mischon de Reya, who initiated this debate and gave a variety of professionals in the retail industry a chance to share their views in an open discussion. It was all positive and a very entertaining debate.Africa House, Roundtable and Tricia Topping images courtesy of Mishcon de Reya; Dr Pippa Malmgrem image courtesy of DRPM Group.