Recap of “Retail Tsunami” with Robin Lewis

Robin Lewis, retail expert and founder/publisher of The Robin Report, shared his insights into the modern retail environment with his presentation, “Retail Tsunami.” Thank you to all Underfashion Club members and friends who joined us on March 28th at the Harvard Club of New York for an evening of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, networking, and education! Your attendance supports our mission to promote “Education today for a better industry tomorrow.”

Once settled in, all attendees gathered in the next room for the start of “Retail Tsunami.” Robin Lewis began by expressing that he was glad to be giving back to an industry he’s been a part of for so many years. He explained that the most profound transformation in the history of retail is taking place today. In order to stay in business, old world retailers must adapt by implementing new strategies to serve the new young consumer’s values.

It is a complex change, largely influenced by modern society’s most powerful enabler of consumers: the smart phone. The API (application programming interface) software of mobile devices is the means of connecting all users, creating a one-world consumer with shared interests and desires around the globe.

From 1950-1980, the United States had the most explosive growth of retail in all of history. Though demand declined during the early ’80s due to globalization, supply remained the same and became even more efficient with technological advances. Saturation has forced retailers and brands to offer extreme discounts in order to compete. This unsustainable system is devaluing brands and driving many companies out of business. To survive, the basis of competition must shift toward new values that serve millennial interests.

We are redefining what value is. It’s a wholistic, personalized, and frictionless experience that’s powered by the internet and mobile devices that allow unlimited and instantaneous access to whatever we may dream of. This new ability to demand anything as an individual has given the consumer all of the power, encouraging stores to move physically closer to them. The consumer becomes the new point of sale as time becomes the new luxury for young people. Fast delivery and instant access is expected for every product and service.

The millennial lifestyle is drastically different from that of the baby boomers, bringing a whole new set of consumer values. Due to an increase in college debt and  a decrease in the worth of salaries among the youth, consumers have been inclined to share, swap, rent, and resell rather than own, doubling the trading business since 2013. The new consumer prefers small, intimate, and personal businesses such as local restaurants, boutiques, and craft breweries over big mega brands. Today, companies are urged to be ethical in behavior, representative of their target market’s lifestyle, and to contribute to the world through sustainable practices. Values are becoming more important than price.

All of today’s marketing should be personalized. This is accomplished through the aggregation of big data, analyzing it, and implementing it to localize and personalize commerce. It’s going to be a high-tech, high-touch world. Customers will be equipped with tablets that can download information, interactive dressing rooms, and more. However, as a retailer, there is no reason to have a store if you don’t have an intelligent human touch. Humans are necessary for the personal aspect of a business. 

Technology is going to reverse last century’s paradigm of sexualization, consolidation, and massification into a 21st-century style that advocates desexualization, de-massification, and personalization. Retailers who are waiting for the future to come before they start transforming are “dead men walking,” because the future is here. Robin Lewis urges retailers to embrace the future now or be history. Remember, personalization is key!

Watch the entire “Retail Tsunami” presentation on YouTube:

See our photos from cocktail hour on Facebook:

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