The NRF Retail Big Show – APAC Summary

The National Retail Federation’s ‘Big Show’ is the signature global retail event held in New York City annually, and for the very first time, the event launched today in Singapore.

Singapore’s strategic location and its long-established status as a regional business centre provided an optimal stage for NRF to launch the first-ever APAC version of Retail’s Big Show, aiming to integrate leaders and organisations across the retail industry to collaborate at a pan-regional level.

Day One Overview

Day one started with opening remarks from Martine Reardon, Senior Advisor for Retail Insights and Content Creation for the National Retail Federation. Reardon started by telling the audience it had taken over four years of planning to bring ‘Big Show’ to Singapore. Singapore had been chosen as it presented the most diverse market in the world.

The Ultimate Retail Tech Expo was set to be a standout as was the ‘NRF Innovation Lab & Startup Zone’, enabling retail executives the opportunity to engage, connect and explore the future of retail evolution from cutting-edge technology to revolutionary store designs.

Poh Chi Chuan, Executive Director – Exhibitions & Conferences echoed Reardon’s comments. He noted that the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is the world’s largest retail market and yet the most underserved.

Home to 60% of the world’s population, the Asia Pacific region is an immense market for retail that has been experiencing unprecedented growth, fuelled by the region’s vast population, increasing urbanisation and the rapid rise of megacities, as well as consumers’ savviness in using advanced technology to access products and services.

Then we heard a discussion between Christopher Thomas-Moore, Chief Digital Officer of Domino’s Pizza and National Retail Federation’s Martine Reardon, Senior Advisor for Retail Insights and Content Creation.

Thomas-Moore spoke about meeting consumer needs through tech-driven innovation. While innovation is an important driver of Domino’s success, Chris advised innovation is a journey – it doesn’t happen overnight.

The morning continued with a virtual fireside chat between Vipul Chawla, Group Chief Executive Officer of retailer FairPrice Group and Ernie Koh, President of the Singapore Retailers Association. Chawla spoke about the importance of diversification.

Later, a panel discussion with Mikko Kärkkäinen, CEO and Co-Founder of RELEX, Onni Rautio Director APAC for RELEX Solutions, Teck Cheng Bay Director of Procurement Strategy and Supplier Partnership Management of Singapore Grocery Retailer, NTUC FairPrice, Kenneth Teo SEA Client Account and Industry Lead Accenture took place. The theme, Bridging the Gap: Trends and Challenges in Grocery and Retail was addressed.

It was suggested that as consumer behaviour evolves, and technology continues to reshape the shopping landscape, grocers and retailers alike face similar challenges. The session explored some of the challenges and opportunities in the grocery market that correlate to the broader retail market.

The afternoon began with a ‘future-focused’ panel discussion that delved into the dynamic evolution of retail and specifically the latest innovations transforming the beauty and luxury industry. The panel included Céline de Robillard, Omnichannel Director for VISEO, Dais Arai IT Transformation Director from L’Oréal, Marco Lim the Commercial Director APAC for Cegid, Chloe Cortinovis Managing Director of Bienvenue Factory.

Speakers highlighted groundbreaking initiatives spearheaded by L’Oréal and other leading retailers, demonstrating how digital technology is reshaping the shopping experience. Topics covered included the ‘Evolution of Retail’ in the beauty and luxury industry, how to enhance the customer experience and importantly, future retail trends and innovations, including AI-Powered Retail Strategies.

Mid-afternoon included a fireside chat with 7-Eleven CEO Danni Peirce and Rakesh Mani, Partner at PwC. The discussion centred on Revolutionising Convenience Retailing.

Peirce added, “Convenience, as a business, is set to outpace all other formats of retail. We see supermarkets moving into convenience and now, we are seeing traditional convenience looking to up-size. However, pleasingly, I don’t think we will ever see a supermarket get very small.”

Day one concluded with a keynote address by Amazon’s Mathsy Kutty, Anne-Laure Descours, Chief Sourcing Officer for PUMA, and Angela Langmann, Start-up Advisor & Mentor, discussing Sustainable Practices in Retail.

Anne-Laure, “APAC is the factory of the world. APAC has the power to save the world. There has been a significant shift in manufacturing in Asia across the past thirty years.”

Day Two Overview

Day two kicked off with opening remarks from the president and CEO of the National Retail Federation’s CEO Matt Shay. Matt was joined on stage by Ernie Koh. Koh is currently the Executive Director – Marketing of Koda Ltd and the Chairman of Commune Lifestyle Pte Ltd. Since 2016, he is also the president of the Singapore Retailer’s Association (SRA).

Koh confirmed SRA is committed to furthering its cause and advancing the initiatives under the Retail Industry Transformation Programme 2025 and the SRA Roadmap 2025 for the retail industry working in close partnership with retail stakeholders, government agencies and trade associations to foster innovation, promote globalisation and drive business growth.

The morning continued with an exciting fireside chat with Nicole Sheffield, Managing Director of Wesfarmers Limited OneDigital and Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association.

Sheffield suggested that customers who join paid loyalty programs are up to 60% more likely to spend more with the brand after subscribing, compared to before their membership. Furthermore, these members often exhibit a higher retention rate, with companies reporting that paid loyalty program members renew at rates of 70% or higher.

The morning concluded with a session that offered insights from Chief People Officer (CPO), Panchalee Weeratammawat, from Central Retail Corporation, Thailand’s leading retail conglomerate. She was joined on stage by Siddharth Pathak, Senior Partner with Kearney and Head of Consumer Products and Retail for Asia-Pacific.

Panchalee indicated her philosophy was to build a great team, for a growing retail organisation, you need to bring them on the journey with you. Our business was, and still is, essentially born out of a family business heritage. I believe everyone should participate in the growth process. I share responsibility with my team. I respect the team, listen to their ideas and inspire them when needed.

The afternoon began with a fireside chat with Chris Chong, CEO of Retail and Workspace CapitaLand Investment and Low Ngai Yuen Chief Merchandise and Marketing Officer at AEON Group, entitled The Great Retail Food Experience: Powering Growth through Transformation and Collaboration.

The discussion began with key learnings for CapitaLand. Chris spoke about how shopping centres, specifically across Asia were shifting and evolving from simply ‘provisioning’ to ‘experiential lifestyle hubs’. We’ve needed to keep pace with our shopping centre assets. Where once, a shopping centre was anchored by a couple of large tenants, a supermarket and then a specialty, they now are far more.

“Today, you’re heading to the shopping centre to go to gym, grab coffee, have lunch with friends at a great restaurant. You’re getting your car washed. Catching a movie or attending a medical appointment. We now work with lifestyle architects to develop, and often redevelop older centres into smaller, Lifestyle centres.”

The promise of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) in retail is as large. Possibly larger than the emergence of the Internet back in the 1990s. However, it will also come with its own challenges. In this session, Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research and Jon Reily, President, McFadyen Digital, discussed what can work, and what might not work, for global retailers with this new technology.

Deborah warned that 60% of business today don’t have an AI policy.

“With the surge of AI integration in many sectors, ethical implications associated with its use have become increasingly significant. Dedicated AI ethicists are now essential for businesses to safely navigate this complex landscape, anticipate potential risks and act responsibly.”

Day Two ended with an insightful fireside chat with Greg Merrill, growth and transformation executive with NIKE, and Debra Langley of Lyra Ventures. Greg’s Board experience includes B2B & B2C companies focused on technology, software, footwear & apparel, luxury fashion, robotics, automation, and sustainability.

“Success is the result of multiple failures”, Greg began, suggesting retailers need to not be despondent by early failures as they launch into digital and virtual environments.

Day Three Overview

The final day of NRF Retail Big Show Singapore began with opening comments from Guillaume Sachet, Partner, Advisory at KPMG in Singapore. Prior to joining KPMG Global Consumer & Retail, Guillaume drove digital transformation, innovation and investments as Head of Strategy at MediaCorp.

Guillaume summarised the first two days of the conference and suggested multiple themes had emerged, including; customer, technology, product, data and sustainability. The first session of the day began with a fireside discussion between Hermes’ Ken Feyder, VP, Head of IT for North and South America and Giri Agarwal, Co-Founder at Incisiv, themed ‘Redefining Elegance: The Role of IT in Shaping Luxury’s Next Era’.

In this thought-provoking fireside, Ken and Giri delved into the pivotal role of IT in driving the future of luxury retail, emphasizing the enhancement of customer experience and the strategic use of data-driven decision making. Drawing on his extensive experience, Ken revealed how innovative IT strategies and technologies were being integrated, to not only uphold, but elevate the standards of luxury, ensuring exceptional customer interactions and operational efficiency.

In the next session, ‘How innovative technology is driving the future of grocery shopping’, Zephyrft founder, Chris Vincent joined Xu Ying, President of the leading Chinese retailer, Wumart, and Marcus Spurrell CEO of DMALL International in conversation.

Marcus acknowledge the challenges he encountered when he joined Dairy Farm.

“When I arrived, Dairy Farm had 25-year-old, end-of-life technology across its IT, POS, procurement, and warehousing systems. Most systems were redundant, or very close to redundancy. Systems were bolted together and, in many cases, simply did work together.”

“It wasn’t just the compatibility challenges of the ‘end-of-life’ software, there were also security issues, compliance problems and increasing costs we were potentially exposed to.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, warns that using end-of-life software can create security risks, as software vendors will no longer provide security patches and updates to fix newly discovered vulnerabilities. Redundant software can create compliance issues for organisations. Today, there are regulations in place for companies that require them to maintain secure and up-to-date software and protect sensitive or prized information from being exposed.

In an early afternoon session, Ian Kwon, Lotte’s Chief Strategy Officer shared the story of Lotte’s ambition to be number one in grocery in Korea. In conversation with Ocado’s President for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APAC & MEA), Adriano Araujo, Ian discussed Lotte’s strategy to thrive in the world’s most fast-developing grocery markets, and their plans to build market share in a hyper-competitive landscape.

Kwon warned, “At Lotte, we expect online to grow to 30% in the next five years. Hypermarkets will shrink as a result. The biggest shift we are seeing in our businesses is that ‘convenience and speed’ are outpacing ‘scale and range’. The online grocery channel is facing disruption. It’s not a matter of ‘if it happens’, but ‘when it happens’.

In the later afternoon session, Matthew McClelland from Dot Digital focussed on driving seamless online and offline strategies.

“In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s crucial for businesses to adopt a holistic approach that bridges the gap between online and offline channels to create a seamless and unified customer experience.”

McClelland examined innovative strategies and best practices to connect online stores and physical locations, ensuring customers receive a consistent and high-quality experience across all touchpoints. He explored the role of technology and data integration, personalisation techniques, effective omnichannel marketing, and other key factors in creating a cohesive and immersive experience that strengthens customer loyalty and satisfaction.

In one of the final sessions, we heard from Jennifer Child, CEO of Australian retailer Oroton and Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association. The afternoon’s discussion was a masterclass in contemporary leadership and humility.

Child explained that Oroton had identified that our legacy is a ‘memory’ and an ‘emotion’, tided to ‘nostalgia’. Nostalgia has always been a relevant emotion when it comes to iconic fashion brands. Many would recall making their first purchase of an iconic fashion item. Nostalgic marketing emerged from the 1970s and is employed to connect consumers to their past.

In the final session of Big Show APAC, Mastercard’s Chief Economist, David Mann, explored evolving consumer trends in Asia Pacific today and beyond.

David used the analogy of the Bungy Jump to describe APAC’s economic outlook.

“After the jump, you get the collapse – you fall. However, once you reach a certain point, you rebound. At Mastercard’s Economic Institute, we knew rebound was on the cards. We saw this globally and this collapse and rebound have impacted retail, and supply, migration and travel.”

The three days of the 3-Day NRF Retail’s Big Show in Singapore concluded with insightful comments from Ryf Quail, Managing Director, Comexposium.

“I was excited when I heard Singapore had been added to the NRF 2024 flagship event list. With support from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Asia Pacific (APAC) edition of Retail’s Big Show will be held in Singapore for the first time this year.”

“The inaugural Retail’s Big Show Asia Pacific surpassed all expectation. We covered over 15,000 square metres of conference space. Over 7,000 attendees, from 40 countries engaged with over 240 exhibitors.”

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