Jon Bibo attended the Global Retailing Conference (GRC) in Tucson, AZ, for the 4th consecutive year and shares his thoughts on this exciting conference that addresses hot topics in the world of retail.

Global Retailing Conference 2018

The GRC is one of my favorite and most thought-provoking Conferences each year. The GRC is held in conjunction with the Terry Lundgren Center for Retailing at the University of Arizona and features 16 top executives who share their strategies, insights, and philosophies for success. Each session lasts just 45 minutes (including a Q&A period), so attendees receive just the right amount of information to stimulate new ideas. The Conference lasts just 1.5 days, so plenty of high-quality content is packed into a very short amount of time. This year’s lineup was incredibly strong and included:

  • Terry Lundgren (retired CEO & Chairman) from Macy’s
  • Rich Lennox (CMO) from Macy’s
  • Kenneth Cole (Founder) from Kenneth Cole Productions
  • Tony Rogers (CMO) from Walmart
  • Rachel Shechtman (CEO) from Story
  • Karen Katz (retired CEO) from Neiman Marcus
  • Greg Creed (CEO) from YUM! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut)
  • Mark Weinstein (SVP) from Hilton
  • Jonathan Pelosi (Head of Mobile Apps) from Google
  • Michael Forrest (SVP) from Samsung
  • Sarah Quinlan (SVP) from MasterCard (and 2x ICBA Conference keynote speaker!)
  • Tom Schwartztrauber (Director) from Nestle Purina
  • Kian Gould (CEO) from AOE
  • Lee McCabe (VP) from Alibaba
  • Shawn Gensch (CMO) from Sprouts Farmers Markets
  • Andrew Critchell (Digital Marketing Manager) from Walgreen’s
Global Retailing Conference Session
Rachel Schechtman of "STORY"

4 Common Themes Shared at the GRC that can Benefit College Stores

  • Consumers Rule! And you better get to know each of them as individuals!
    • Almost every speaker pointed out that technology enables retailers to learn more about customers than ever before. Gone are the “old days” of broadcasting the same generic marketing messages to mass audiences. One speaker after another stressed the fact that each consumer is unique and has unique preferences and tastes for what causes them to buy, what and when and how they like to buy, etc. The more retailers can learn about customers, the more effective and efficient their market and sales practices can become.
    • “Mining” of data can start slowly and the benefits begin almost immediately. Ask yourself: ”Which characteristics do my best customers share?” Customize your sales/marketing messages accordingly.
    • The concept of retail as a series of customer “experiences” was a major theme of the presentations. This idea has been around for a while, but it’s worth asking yourselves what “experience” are you offering your customers in-store and online.
  • Brick & Mortar retail is not dead…but you may need to adjust your “channel!”
    • "Pure” internet retailers and “Pure” physical retailers are in trouble. Striking the right “omni-channel” (store + online) combination is the key to success.
    • Over 90% of retail purchases are still made in-store (although certain categories, such as electronics, are now surpassing 50% online sales transactions).
    • Integration of online and in-store strategies for: merchandising, marketing, assortments, and promotions is essential.
    • Think mobile first! It’s not enough to have a decent web site: it’s a customer’s mobile experience with your brand and your products that matters most.
  • Do well by doing good
    • Retailers are embracing the fact that they have an obligation to give back to the communities they serve.
    • Positive financial results can not only be achieved when supporting the community, sourcing responsibly, etc., but can actually be enhanced through these efforts.
    • Employee satisfaction is higher among companies that engage in philanthropic efforts and emphasize ethical conduct.
    • Consumers are much more loyal to companies who emphasize and promote values-based initiatives, conduct, and strategies.

"Distinctive Brands act as magnets, not mirrors."
-- Greg Creed, CEO, YUM! Brands

  • Innovate or else!
    • Even in large organizations, the need to try completely new ideas was emphasized throughout the Conference.
    • It is important for the leaders of retail organizations to encourage and reward risk-taking and to not expect that every new idea will be a winner.
    • The idea that “even if it’s not broken, fix it anyway” was encouraged. Greg Creed from YUM! Brands said, “Retailers have to be a magnet and draw customers with new ideas and concepts, not just be mirrors that reflect current norms and preferences.” Then he gave, as an example, Taco Bell’s new (and very successful) $1 Nacho Fries. He noted that when you are the 108th restaurant to offer french fries, you better do something different.
    • Being distinctive enables smaller retailers to compete with larger competitors.
    • Find ways to save customers time and/or money.
Jon visits University of Arizona Bookstore

I encourage college stores to consider attending the GRC in the future. Debby Shively at the University of Arizona BookStores is always a gracious host and Conference attendee. I guarantee that you will leave with a notebook (or mobile phone) full of great ideas, notes, reminders, innovative concepts, and inspiration.

Pictured Left: Jon also stopped in to visit the University of Arizona Bookstore with Jen O'Connor (KU Bookstore), where they had the chance to catch up with Jake Wright (Assistant Director, General Merchandise) prior to the Global Retailing Conference.