The Global Retailing Conference (GRC) is one of the industry’s top events for retailers of all shapes and sizes. In its 21st year, the GRC takes place in Tucson in association with the University of Arizona’s acclaimed Lundgren Center for Retailing.

The GRC attracts over 450 retail industry leaders and features presentations from executives across the retail spectrum including: Apple, Google, PetSmart, Macys, National Retail Federation, Mastercard, Wal-mart, Bluemercury, and more. ICBA’s Fred Weber and Jon Bibo are attending for the 3rd consecutive year.

Below are just a few of Jon’s observations from Day 1 of the GRC that are especially relevant to college stores.

ICBA at the Global Retailing Conference
Debby Shively, University of Arizona, and Fred Weber, ICBA, with Terry Lundgren, Executive Chairman of Macy's


While eCommerce only accounts for 9.1% of overall retail dollars spent, certain segments are seeing eCommerce take a much larger share: 35% of retail apparel sales are made online, while 63% of electronics purchases are made online.


Many formerly “pure” eCommerce players are now opening physical locations because they see the unique value that “brick & mortar” retail locations provide. Examples include: Amazon, Home Shopping Network, and Fabletics.

Personalize and Innovate

With today’s consumer being so well informed, many of Day 1’s presenters commented that focusing on each individual customer is more important than ever. The other major theme was to not stand still…to constantly innovate and try new concepts. Some of the notable comments along these lines were: “Retailers need to be platform-agnostic and audience-centric,” “Agile is the new Smart,” “The ‘average’ customer no longer exists,” “Examine yourself as a retailer from the outside in,” and “Retailers must embrace change to the point that it makes them uncomfortable.”


Arizona Ath-Leisure Section
The University of Arizona BookStore's new Ath-Leisure section


The “Ath-Leisure” category is the strongest performing category in women’s apparel.
There was a tremendous emphasis on mobile eCommerce. The general consensus was that a retailer’s mobile eCommerce presence is much more important than traditional web sites.


Enabling consumers to Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) across all categories is essential and is no longer a “nice to have” option for consumers, it is a “need to have.”

Retail Technologies

Retail technologies are playing more and more of an important role in helping retailers make smarter and more accurate decisions about inventory, assortments, and consumer preferences. It is essential that retailers capture and analyze as much data as possible, at the deepest levels possible. Anything less and you will be at a competitive disadvantage.

Customer Engagement

Finding ways to excite and delight customers is essential for retail success—the physical store environment offers engagement advantages and relationship-building advantages that cannot be found online.