This week I am in Rome representing the British Centres for Business UAE and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) UAE at the World Retail Congress. This is the 9th edition of the Congress being held at the beautiful Rome Cavilieri hotel atop a hill with breathtaking views of the city (truth be told I’ve spent only 10 minutes appreciating the views and about 10 hours cooped up indoors).
UKTI has brought together a large delegation of fantastic UK companies including retail giants such as Debenhams, Asda and Boots as well as independent retailers and retail service providers. Also present are members from the British Retail Consortium and the British Independent Retailers Association.
The theme for this year’s Congress is Retail Transformation. We spent yesterday (Day 1) understanding the retail landscape and the challenges facing the industry with brilliant presentations from the likes of Oscar Farinetti, founder of Eataly who inspired some of us so much that we ended up eating our dinner last night at his famed flagship store in Rome. The store has a feel-good vibe about it and needless to say, the food was great.
Today has again been a fantastic line up of speakers who have spoken about the solutions to some of the challenges discussed yesterday. My favourite session had to be the ‘Brave new creatives’ session with Ozgur Dogan, Chief Marketing Officer at hepsiburada.com; Johannes Torpe from Bang & Olufson; Shoes of Prey co-founder Jodie Fox and Walt Disney Company’s VP, Francesca Romana. The speakers inspired us to imagine what could be possible and ways in which to challenge the boundaries of what’s normal and expected.
Another interesting session was ‘Building Company Culture for the Brave New Retail World’ in which Ahmad Galal Ismail, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim spoke about how they engage and inspire their employees to live the company tagline ‘Creating Great Moments for Everyone Everyday’. Other panelists on the session included Genevieve Kunst, MD of Shopstyle who spoke about her company’s unique culture focusing on happiness and individuality of their employees; Julie Hamiltion, CCO of the Coca-Cola Company speaking about the importance of working with local communities and localising their products globally; and Kip Tindell, Co-founder and CEO of The Container Store emphasising the importance of hiring great employees and taking care of them to excel your business.
Looking forward to Day 3 tomorrow which has sessions on the future of retail transformation especially the role of technology and concludes with a gala and awards ceremony.
An exciting feature of this Congress for me personally has been seeing a lot of familiar faces from the UAE, including business leaders who have come over as part of the Dubai Chamber delegation.
The delegation is led by H.E. Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman, Dubai Chamber, H.E. Juma Mohammad Al Kait, Assistant Undersecretary, UAE Ministry of Economy and H.E. Hamad Buamim, President & CEO, Dubai Chamber. Participating in the delegation are powerhouses like H.E. Majid Al Shamsi, Chairman, Union Coop, Adel Al Zarouni, Managing Director, Rivoli Group LLC, Ahmed Galal Ismail, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Ventures, Khalid Al Falasi, General Manager, Union Coop, Mohi-Din BinHendi, Chairman, BinHendi Enterprises, Rajiv Suri, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Fashion, and Vino El Khatib, Chief Marketing & Brand Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Holding.
The Dubai Chamber delegation is here of course to learn and appreciate this year’s Congress so that they can host the 10th edition of the Congress next year in Dubai. I have no doubt next year’s Congress would be a stunner, because what Dubai excels at is putting on a great show for its visitors.