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Pandemic crisis is a “wakeup call” for retailers


® Philippe Houze: “The future will be a phygital world.” Photo: Yann Coatsaliou
 
WHILE traditional retailers have often been labelled as dinosaurs in the digital age, they have in fact proven to be chameleons in adapting to a series of crises and transformations in the retail industry, Philippe Houze, executive chairman, Galeries Lafayette Group, told delegates at MAPIC this morning.
“Confronted with all these different crises, they are reinventing commerce,” he said as he described a series of revolutions dating back to the advent of hypermarkets in the 1960s.
“We have to wait for the unexpected,” Houze said. “We are still in the current crisis but we are doing quite well. We have adapted our know-how and gone from the dinosaur to the chameleon. We have been agile like dolphins.”
Resilience, optimism and courage are some of the key attributes retailers will need to continue to adapt he said, adding that the current crisis caused by the pandemic had provided an opportunity for the retail industry to reset, with innovation and transformation at the heart of the reinvention.
Houze said: “The situation is different today, with new priorities. This crisis is a wakeup call for us to find alternative models. The future will be a phygital world, combining physical retail and digital. The pandemic has accelerated changes. People want to live differently.”
All of these changes have to be to service customer needs he stressed, matching the expectation of the customer through transformation by technology.
“Data will help us understand our customers and take concrete actions,” he said. “Sales teams are becoming influencers, stores are becoming showrooms and social media is very important. It is a new eco-system. My conviction is that we need to change priorities. I am a life-long learner. A thirst for learning helps us progress. I continue to think like an outsider.”
Achieving transformation will require a more collaborative approach, he stressed, with teams working on the mission and sharing their progress together.
“We forget that around us we have all these men and women who can take action and innovate.” The profit will come if people know how to organise themselves, Houze said, as he advocated for brining the best of the physical store together with the new approaches of pure players and digital natives.
As physical retailers “we open the doors. Digital natives have concentrated on their connectivity, but the only way that they can achieve growth is to look for clients and new communities in the physical stores. We now have many digital natives within our stores at Galeries Lafayette. I think there will be a balance [between online and offline] in the future.”
 
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