Innovation is not just new technology, retailers told they must remember to communicate with customers

Disruptive brands come into sharp focus at The Retail Summit in Dubai

Dubai, UAE, 26 February 2019:  Being innovative does not simply mean embracing the latest technology, adopting AI, utilising AR and replacing humans with robots.

That was a recurring message delivered to the 900 senior executives at The Retail Summit held in Dubai in mid-February. The event featured 80 speakers and saw hundreds of brands from around the world come together to examine the latest thinking around the future of retail and what it means to truly connect with today’s ultra-demanding consumer.

“This region is not one size fits all,” said Khaliq Khan, MD at Accenture, who issued a stark warning for retailers in the Middle East in a panel session Managing Disruption like an Innovation Champion.

“Innovation is not just about technology.  It is about delighting customers at a price and pace acceptable to everybody.  Sometimes we must step back and reassess, but we must not change direction.”

It was a theme reiterated throughout panel and keynote sessions of the new two-day event, which ran from 13-14 February at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. 

Julien Callede, Co-Founder of online furniture retailer, contributed to the Embedding Innovation into your Organisation’s DNA discussion and said: “People associate innovation with technology.  The simple innovative measure that we adopt is to speak to the customer and rely on data.” 

Sitting alongside Callede on the panel was Richard Flint, COO of Hema who added: “We are focused on a customer-centric approach to innovation.  It is about combining sustainability and scalability to provide customers with innovation at scale.”

Among the hundreds of globally recognisable, successful and popular brands present at The Retail Summit this year, two of the most innovative and disruptive sportswear labels stood out. 

Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL) and Hummel were both lauded as successful case studies of how to create new spaces in established industries.  Christian Stadil, CEO of the Thornico Group which owns Hummel kicked off the second day of the Summit with an energetic keynote session where he spoke passionately about the brand’s core principles: flexibility, agility and curiosity.

“Finding room for a small Danish sneaker brand is difficult,” said Stadil.  “We adopted the underdog strategy which was our way to steal market share from the bigger players.  Our ‘big hairy audacious goal’ (BHAG) is to change the world through sport and we work in mass mattering instead of mass marketing.”

When twin brothers Adam and Ryan Goldston created a luxury training shoe which would ultimately be banned by the USA’s National Basketball Association (NBA) because of its disruptive use of technology – the load-n-launch that enables the wearer to jump higher than traditional training shoes developed by their rivals – the co-founders used this to their advantage. 

“No one can just enter the industry with a good-looking product alone,” said Ryan during their discussion.  “If you are trying to create a new category in a given industry, it needs to be something that is new and special.  We have integrated luxury and performance and created our own category.”

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minster of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and in partnership with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Meydan One, The Retail Summit brought together a new generation of retailers delivering a winning combination of outstanding service and ground-breaking use of technology to deliver memorable shopping experiences.

The Summit was packed with thought provoking content and lively debate from industry heavyweight speakers including:

  • Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group
  • Mona Kattan, Global President & Co-Founder, Huda Beauty
  • Jo Malone CBE, Founder of Jo Loves
  • HE Hamad Buamim, President & CEO, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Beth Horn, Industry Head, Retail, Facebook
  • Fahad Abdulrahim Kazim, VP, Meydan Malls, Meydan Group
  • Ghizlan Guenez, CEO & Founder, The Modist
  • Julia Goldin, CMO, Lego
  • John Veichmanis, CMO, Farfetch

The Retail Summit was supported by event partners Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Meydan One; Innovation partner: Accenture; Silver partners: Black Jack, CBRE, CEGID, KPMG, SAP, Umdasch and Xpandretail; Strategic partners: Al Futtaim Malls, Arvind Internet, Bentley, BJSS, Content Square, Department of International Trade, Gate Avenue, Lava Moments, Mcube, Nook, Openbravo, Parcelly, Ponant, Presso, Samsung and Sensemi.