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Foot Locker CEO: “The Customer Has Become More Demanding”

The second keynote session during day one of NRF’s Big Show here in New York City kept the drumbeat going for what was the day’s hot topic: change is coming to retailers and the customer is at the center. Those retailers that are willing to take chances and implement real change from the executive level down to store managers are poised to reap the benefits.

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The afternoon keynote session, entitled Navigating Retail’s Relentless Reality: What CEOs Are Doing to Thrive in a Consumer-Driven World, began with JDA Software CEO Hamish Brewer recapping results of a recent global CEO survey focused on where the top global retailers are putting their focus towards in the coming year.

The session really took off when Brewer was joined by Foot Locker CEO Ken Hicks and Forbes Magazine Chief Insights Officer Bruce Rogers to expound on many of the points Brewer spoke to – central to all was the fact that the consumer has become more demanding.

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According to Brewer, the retail landscape is going to change more in the next five years than it has in the past 50. This means the role of the CEO is more important than ever as they will be crucial in navigating through the next few years and ensure the successful execution of both in-store and omnichannel strategies. “Retailers need to bridge the gap between risk and strategy to combat them,” he said. He went on to issue a note of caution for retailers saying they should not revert back to processes that have worked in the past as they cannot account for the changes that are coming.

It was Ken Hicks who said outright that the consumer has become more demanding. He added that competition is everywhere and not just the store down the street. With the proliferation of online and multichannel retailing, the competition might be halfway around the world, completely online, or worse, the customer themselves. Armed with the right mix of solutions and strategies, retailers can create unique experience for consumers that they cannot find anywhere else.

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“The customer may enter the store knowing more about the product than the sales associate,” said Hicks, “You have to be flexible and you have to be aware of what is going on.”

Speaking of his own company, Hicks said they are willing to try anything if it is going to help create a better consumer experience. He made a point to say that the trick is not investing all of your time in one solution, but to test out as many solutions as possible and at many different levels within your organization to see what works. Effective in-store experiences are the result of well-informed and developed practices.