Female Executives Weigh Digital's Impact

They gathered in New York last week to discuss ways in which the digital revolution has changed the way they run their businesses.

WSL’s Liebmann said it’s important for a brand to figure out if they have the right people in place, who even know the right questions to ask. She said the consumer today wants to shop when she wants, where she wants and how she wants. “So you have to give me all the choices. Sometimes I’m in the store, sometimes I’m on my iPad, sometimes I’m on my phone and friends tweet me about something,” she said.  She predicts none of the channels will go away. “It’s all sliced and diced differently from the shoppers’ viewpoint,” said Liebmann.

As a commercial realtor, Pomerantz said the key question is, how does a luxury brand maintain the exclusivity when there are so many channels? “You’re seeing Louis Vuitton opening all these stores all over the place, and people are calling it ‘mass luxury.’ In the long run, how does that impact a luxury brand if they open multiple channels?” asked Pomerantz. She said it’s not just at the highest level malls, but B, C and D-level ones.

Liebmann added that the country already has too many of the same stores, and when digital comes into the picture, it feels like even more. “The issue that’s a challenge is the notion of the sameness, of no sense of specialness. It’s a huge issue. It just gets magnified. It’s like retailing on 4G. For high end, luxury, where it’s all about scarcity and more precious experience, it becomes a big issue.”

Turning to global business and recruitment needs, Gudas believes there’s a lack of talent in the fashion and retail industry, especially strong merchandising and creative talent. “We’re not incubating a lot of young talent in the right way. We’ve got to bring that talent up. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the market and a lack of a formalized training,” she said. She noted that she’s getting more searches in the BRIC countries, as well as the Middle East. “It’s forcing us to look at more multilingual skill sets. We’re also in the relocation business now. Talent has to be able to relocate.”

She said Fast Retailing for example, sends people to train in Japan for six months before placing them in another location.

Pomerantz currently has two clients from the Middle East who control multiple brands and have stores there. They have European brands too, and they want to open in the U.S. How did they get to Pomerantz? One found her on the Internet.  “They want to do 100 stores in the next three years. That’s huge. That’s something you can’t do one by one. Or you’ll still be sitting here three years from now,” she said.

As a forecaster, Moellering said globalization is very interesting, and technology has been a great motor and engine for it. “But I think the future is moving toward customization. I think we all have business models that will succeed when we trade with customization.”

“You hear words like curate, customize, bespoke. You need to use enabling technologies to be able to do that for the customer. That’s the challenge of retailers today,” said Gudas.


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