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How Digital Growth Is Impacting Luxury Retailers

There’s no question that digital continues to change the game for top luxury retailers. This year, executives are plotting a host of new initiatives to help them stand out in a crowded landscape. Here, Neil Clifford, CEO of Kurt Geiger (which operates the shoe departments at Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty) and Marc Metrick, president of Saks Fifth Avenue, open their playbooks to talk about what is on tap for this year.

Neil Clifford, CEO, Kurt Geiger

The opportunities: “Being an eternal optimist, I look forward to a new year with, [for my team], annoying excitement and impatience for progress. Opportunities are only as restricted as your imagination. It’s time to brush off the things in the ‘too difficult’ pile and think about how you can achieve them.”

The challenge: “We had a good year [in 2016], so I suppose in general terms, it’s always how we continue the growth. To be more boring and specific, I suppose it is margins and the exchange rate.”

The investments: “Two things: The most important and influential one for the business will be people and talent. This will be a year of trying to find clever people to join the company to help us with the strategy. People, not spreadsheets, find the solutions. Secondly, we will accelerate our digital and systems investments. Back of house is no longer. To the consumer, it’s all front of house.”

Kurt Geiger Kids
Kurt Geiger’s Neil Clifford and Rebecca Farrar-Hockley
CREDIT: Tim Jenkins

Marc Metrick, president, Saks Fifth Avenue

The opportunity and challenge: “It boils down to understanding our customer. We are transforming right now, and as the consumer does the same thing, we are trying to move Saks ahead and be innovative and exciting. It’s so important, more than ever, to do our research, get to know the consumer and understand their needs. Right now we are at an inflection point. We spent the better part of the last two decades trying to bring the consumer along — whether it was bringing them to the internet or getting them to different media platforms.”

“Now all of sudden it’s reversed. It’s now the consumer saying, ‘Here’s where I want it, how I want it, and here’s what I want to know about.’ At the end of the day, people still want to be a part of what we do. The consumer wants to shop. It’s just a matter of on what terms, and we have to be able to deliver that in the best way possible.”

The investments: “There’s a lot of effort going into mobile, and there’s a lot of time we are spending on making that all-channel experience for the consumer more seamless. That’s time and energy. We are obviously going to continue to push our product offer, our edit, trying to put fashion out there up in front. For us, it’s not too different with what we started off in 2016. What we are trying to do
is make the consumer experience frictionless.”

Saks Fifth Avenue Houston
Larry Bruce, Marc Metrick, Tracy Margolies and Bobby Dees at the ribbon cutting for Saks Fifth Avenue in Houston.
CREDIT: Courtesy of ECB

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