Retail Executive Summit 2013: Maximizing the Next Wave of Growth

At the twelfth annual RIS News Retail Executive Summit, held June 19-21 at the Grand Del Mar in Del Mar, CA, more than 70 retail executives heard from top retailers including Chico’s, Belk, Sport Chalet and The Vitamin Shoppe. Executives received first-hand, real-world advice on how to maximize growth in educational sessions and hands-on workshops.

The RIS event featured carefully structured agendas that balanced interactive learning sessions with intimate networking opportunities. With a peer-to-peer exchange of information, where key retailers are the featured speakers, attendees enjoyed sharing ideas, experiences and market perspectives with like-minded professionals. The content-rich sessions and networking opportunities allowed IT teams and their line-of-business peers to meet with solution providers to discover new and emerging technologies that can make a significant impact in a successful retail organization today.

The event kicked off on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 with the CIO of the Year Awards dinner, honoring retail technology executives that are adapting their organization to the new retail environment. Judges rated each nomination by business impact on a scale of 1-10. The scores were then aggregated to determine overall winners for Strategic Impact, Innovation, Rookie of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement. CIO of the Year award winners included Stacey Shulman, CIO, American Apparel; Joshua Jewett, CIO, Family Dollar; Steve Black, CIO & CMO, Sprouts Farmers Market; and Thomas English, retiring CIO, Trader Joe’s Company. For the full story, see page 15.

Setting the tone of the conference was opening keynote speaker Bob Willett, an industry visionary and former CEO and CIO of Best Buy International.  “Retail has always evolved, but for the first time we are in the midst of a revolution that separates retail from real estate and we are aggregating massive amounts of data,” said Willett. “These are two big drivers of the revolution, along with a power shift back into the consumer’s hands.”

Other key sessions covered topics from customer-centricity to understanding the social ecosystem, and closing the gap between retailer strategies and shopper preferences.

Peter Fader of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania discussed the importance of customer-centricity, including historical background to help understand the shift away from traditional product-centric thinking, then diving into its key elements and how to successfully implement it.

While innovation is important, the most successful retailers also have to execute better and understand more effectively their social ecosystem. Gary Williams, founder and CEO of wRatings Corporation, highlighted the business, social and technology requirements that today’s retailers need to build value and succeed.

Joe Skorupa, group editor-in-chief of RIS News, took the stage with Meena Patel of Cognizant to present the Fourth Annual Shopper Experience Study, which closes the gap between retailer strategies and shopper preferences. The study revealed that 32% of shoppers say the top store associate improvement they want to see is in-person customer service skills.

During the day two keynote session, Al Meyers of PricewaterhouseCoopers focused on how to lead the next retail wave, identifying and investigating some of the economic and environmental drivers that have shaped the U.S. retail landscape. The speed of technological advancements, globalization and ways to leverage information are some of the drivers that will lead to a more consumer-centric landscape.

In the closing keynote on Friday, June 21, Ken Silay and Kent Kleeberger of Chico’s FAS explained how item-level inventory accuracy enabled by RFID tagging will be a critical element for Chico’s as it seeks to maximize sales opportunities from buy online/pickup in-store occasions. The confidence of knowing which items are actually available in each store will allow the retailer to arm store associates with customer-specific purchase history data, enabling highly effective cross-selling and upselling when the shopper comes into the store. “Retailers need to overcome the ‘stigma’ of shared inventory [between channels] and become truly channel-agnostic,” with their order management, said Silay.

The next major RIS event will be the 2013 Cross-Channel Retail Executive Summit and Mobile Convergence Forum, taking place September 25-27 at the Four Season, Dallas, TX. Visit for more information.

A) Al Meyers, director of retail and consumer practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers, delivers the day two Opening Keynote, “Leading the Next Retail Wave”; B-C) Ken Silay, director of store technology for Chico’s FAS and Kent Kleeberger, COO, Chico’s FAS present the event’s Closing Keynote, “RFID & Beyond: Connect the Dots to True Omnichannel Success”; D) Attendees enjoy the Third Annual CIO of the Year Awards gala dinner; E) Bob Willett, industry visionary, former CEO Best Buy International and CIO (retired) kicks off the Opening Keynote presentation; F) Peter Fader, professor of marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania presents Thursday’s general session; G) Meena Patel, AVP central U.S. retail business consulting, Cognizant and Joe Skorupa, RIS News’ group editor-in-chief, present the Fourth Annual Shopper Experience Study.