NRF 2018: Key quotes from retailers and brands

Retail Connections attended this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in New York City, and we’ve picked out some of the most pertinent quotes from retailers and brands participating in the conference.

The major themes from the show were the impact artificial intelligence (AI) is now able to have on retailers’ businesses today, and how much of the latest consumer-facing technology, which was previously viewed as ‘for the future’, can have an impact with immediate effect.

Much attention was given to the changing face of the store – and technology’s role in making shops more useful and exciting for consumers, and more efficient and cost effective for the retailers themselves.

New trends, and the longstanding issues of needing to speed up the supply chain also came to light in the packed-out conference sessions over the course of three days. We’ve picked out a few quotes from retail luminaries that give an indication of the changes retailers are currently dealing with, which are driven by innovative tech capability, new consumer demands and the need to evolve.

Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO and president, on AI and people in retail: “We want to foster a culture that supports change and helps us go along the journey we’re all on, which will lead to even more change in the future.

“As we make investments in technology and learn how to put artificial intelligence in store [for example], we want our people to live through that and help contribute to that. We want them to be part of the process.”

Blaine Hurst, Panera Bread CEO, on the need to offer the whole package to consumers – good product, good technology and good experience: “How many of you come to Panera just to pay with Apple Pay? Probably none – it’s the food, the total integrated experience that makes the difference.

“But I guarantee if the tech fails on you, you won’t hang around long, you won’t use it, [and] it won’t be so convenient. Our mission from day one was to transform the guest experience using technology.”

Tommy Hilfiger, founder of the eponymous fashion brand, on the launch of a service which allows consumers to purchase items direct from the company’s famous runway shows: “Listening to the consumer is very important and we realised that the consumer wants immediate gratification. When they see something, they want to buy it and wear immediately. And they want great experiences.

“See-now-buy-now, it’s true to our DNA – stay in touch with the youthful consumer and it really is the new way of retailing. If you’re waiting for consumers to come into your stores, you may be waiting a very long time and I’m quite impatient so I want to bring it to them, the immediate gratification, the experience. I want them to be able to see something on the runway, see something on the TV screen and click and buy it. And I want to have the fastest delivery and incredible experience they can possibly find.”

Jennifer Hyman, CEO and chairman of Rent the Runway, on the growing consumer demand to rent, not buy, products: “Rental increases the size of the industry – one thing we’re really passionate about is helping other brands and retailers power rental for themselves.

“We could also do this on behalf of other companies – an interest of the future [is] when you go to a product page that gives you the ability to buy or try it. [That] will be really powerful because it gives customer choice in how they want to interact.”

Spencer Fung, CEO of Li & Fung, on what he views as the need to speed up the time it takes from original product concept to it being available for consumers to buy. “Retail hasn’t caught up with the speed the world is moving.

“When you think consumers are on their mobile six or seven hours a day, and every minute they’re being influenced by something, it’s almost inconceivable that in today’s world you have to decide today what to buy for next Christmas.”

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