The Congress programme puts innovation and creativity at its heart and in a way designed to provide positive direction on how retailing will begin to change and evolve. In 2012, there were sessions on brands, store formats, business innovation and truly integrated, multichannel retailing.
But to see that actual future of retailing in terms of the talent that will eventually lead it, the Retail Futures Challenge proved to be a real highlight for 2012. With five teams of students from retail colleges and universities in New York, London, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Tokyo competing, it showed that the future is going to be safe in their hands.
One of the key drivers of change for retailers around the world is the convergence of technologies and digital channels which is leading us, as consumers, to see the world as "omni-channel". Consumers now expect a completely seamless interaction with brands across all of the channels all of the time.
The 2012 Retail Futures Challenge takes as its context this critical crossroads facing retailers. All competing teams will imagine that they are a retail start-up that has a great idea for a new product, or way of bringing together a range of existing products or services and with a clear idea of the target market. Thinking about our omni-channel world and the next generation of technologies likely to impact on how we all live and work, this is the chance to break completely new ground. With no legacy of stores or even an existing website to worry about but only a vision for the future, each team will set out their plans for their retail business of tomorrow. How will it reach its target customers - on-line only, multi-channel, pop-up stores or kiosksâ€¦.or some other way? The customer experience should be seamless, enjoyable and memorable.
Each team will start by setting out the 3 biggest factors they believe are influencing consumers in their market and then how their new retail concept is addressing these.