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Retail Summit 2014: One thousand participants found inspiration for uncertain times

Retail Summit took its 20th Anniversary year, held on 4 and 5 February 2014 , in a very pragmatic way – focusing on ways how to succeed in today's uncertain times.

It was obviously a very topical subject, as evidenced by the fact that it attracted about a thousand participants. Retail Summit 2014 thus broke all-time records in both the number of speakers, as well as commercial partners and registered delegates. Most of all, it excelled through immense variety of information and ideas. That should be an important boost for anyone who has the ambition to succeed in future difficult struggles in the Czech and Central European market.

Speed of changes in the retail market dramatically accelerates

The retail trade has recently changed profoundly, thanks to new technologies and shifts in consumer demand; said in the introduction of Retail Summit 2014 Christian Verschueren, Director General of EuroCommerce. The pace of the change is accelerating dramatically, internet and multi-channel retailing is becoming a reality. It brings distortion of the original distribution business models and pressure on innovative solutions. How openly admitted Mike Watkins from Nielsen, we certainly can not expect some calm in the future. Rather, we will have "another rollercoaster ride replicating how the trade sector adapts to the new economic reality and the digital age where the consumer is the controlling force."

The dramatic development is of course not passing by the Czech market. Probably the best description of the situation was given by CEO of Pilsner Urquell Paolo Lanzarotti, on the example of the beer market: „In the past three years, the market has changed more than over the past 30 years“. As pointed out by Zdenek Skala of Incoma-GfK, the impact of these changes is enhanced by the relatively small size of the market and its high saturation and competitiveness. Very dense network of rather well accessible stores allows a hard fight for a smaller, „high frequency shopping basket". The retail trade is changing under the pressure of demand and past trends are stopped and partly reverted - large store formats are stagnating, emerges a certain renaissance of small stores and growth of a number of specialists (from butchers the drugstore). Shopping behavior continues to diversify and is profiled by various often contradicting factors, especially by the search for value, pragmatism, increased consumer activity and differential behavior in different situations.

Dramatic changes scare many of us and gives a strong feeling of insecurity. Milan Zeleny, top economist working at Fordham University New York, made a very relevant statement related to that: "The uncertainty generally arises primarily from a misunderstanding of our time, when we already (or still) do not know (or do not even want to know) what is happening and why."

Light at the end of the tunnel, or if you love our time

Two days of Retail Summit 2014 created a number of ideal opportunities for official and informal discussions about how to deal with uncertain times. There were some pessimistic views like „due to the economic crisis, the light at the end of the tunnel was switched off“ but overall optimistic arguments prevailed. Keynote speaker, co-owner of Kofola Jannis Samaras, expressed that in most relevant way: "the unconditional love of what we are doing, takes us through all the pitfalls of uncertain times." He also expressed his believe that the changes and the associated uncertainty are very healthy. As the examples from the nature show us the biggest survival risk is if you fit into the routine. And so it is according to Jannis Samaras in the business world.

Precondition of success is thus being ready for the change which is permanent. As emphasized in this context by Paolo Lanzarotti of Pilsner Urquell, specifically it means " to make quick decisions, bringing new and original solutions that engage consumers and will help retailers to support the development of their business." The basis of success is then long-term partnership between the manufacturer and retailer, with an emphasis on the joint value creation and search for win-win solution.

Solutions for uncertain times

Retail Summit 2014 presented a number of ideas that illuminate why there is no reason for bad mood. That is quite essential as bad mood still not just limits consumer spendings, but also deverts a number of manufacturers and retailers from innovative solutions. The two-day program full of presentations and discussions also brought plenty of ideas how to achieve success. Essential advice in this direction came from the man who in his life really achieved a lot – from Simon Panek, one of the student leaders of November 1989 and founder of People in Need foundation. While it is obvious that not everyone has the opportunity to change large corporations or even states, "let's at least try a little change in what each of us can change".

Like all previous summits, also this year was partly devoted to intense debate on whether and how politicians can help retailers. Christian Verschueren of EuroCommerce expressed the optimistic view that politicians are trying to adapt to a rapidly changing market environment and ensure a equal conditions for all types of business and introduce all levels of consumer protection; so trade should cooperate closely with them. However, among the participants gained more support the view of the President of Slovak Association of Commerce Pavol Konštiak, who described the legislation as "the black plague in business and especially in retail trade." Unlike politicians´ initiatives, in Slovakia just one project succeeded in support of Slovak products – „Quality from Our Regions“, implemented jointly by the Association of Commerce and Food Chamber of Slovakia.

A significant part of the solutions, presented at the Retail Summit 2014, stressed the need to understand changing consumer demand and take full advantage of the possibilities offered by new technologies. Very inspiring was especially the speech of Frank Gotthardt from O2. The key to success is to help people to make the right decisions by providing them with relevant information at the right time and in the right place. The definition of what is important and what is the correct timing and distribution of information is nevertheless radically changing, especially for newly arriving youngest generation of shoppers. Very instructive was therefore the excursion of Frank Gotthardt between members of new "Generation Z", people born after 1995. These new customers are from the birth surrounded by technology, they are always "on-line", instantly share ideas but also criticism. For servicing these customers you need to be like them - have information about your offer always on hand and be at the communications platforms and within communities, relevant to Generation Z. Finally, it also means having a sales team that has the competence and ability to communicate with these clients. In any case, the technology must entertain the customer, help her or him and in no way to bother. At the same time, the technology must help to the retailer to learn about the customer, to find out his preferences and create a unique offer for him.

Basic information about Retail Summit 2014



Retail Summit 2014 contact information

When: 4. - 5. 2. 2014
Where: Clarion Congress Hotel Prague
www.retail21.cz

More information about the conference:
Barbora Krásná, Partner, Blue Events
Tel.: +420 222 749 841, e-mail: barbora.krasna@blueevents.eu

Media contact:
Aneta Zímová, Blue Events
Tel.: +420 730 184 505, e-mail: aneta.zimova@blueevents.eu

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