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BackRetail and Luxury Goods Conference Co-Chairs, Hilary Peltz, Freddie Briance and Valeria Siguelboim, MBA 2019sInterview

Retail and Luxury Goods Conference Co-Chairs, Hilary Peltz, Freddie Briance and Valeria Siguelboim, MBA 2019s

By Sheena Dave

LBS’s annual Retail and Luxury Goods Conference 2018 takes place on June 6. We discuss the upcoming event with conference co-chairs: Hilary Peltz, Freddie Briance and Valeria Siguelboim, MBA 2019s.

For those that don’t know, could you give a brief overview of this year’s conference and what it’s about?

This year the conference is about the future of physical retail and how brands can adjust their strategies to stay relevant in the long-term. Despite much of the buzz over the past decade centred around e-commerce, 85% of shopping still takes place in physical stores. We want the future leaders of this industry to embrace the challenge of this evolving landscape and identify where they can make their mark in the physical retail tech revolution.

What goes into planning an event like this?

Hilary: A lot of hard work! To be honest, it was critical for us and the club to organise a conference that spoke to a wide audience - those interested in all facets of the luxury, retail and digital worlds - so when we started planning the conference, we thought about speakers from subsets of the industry (ie. consumer goods, fashion, beauty, automobiles) that would be interesting complements to one another. Luckily, we have some great connections through Walpole and were able to build our speaker list from there.

Freddie: Conference planning is a chicken and egg situation, especially if you’re not building off an established base. Speakers want the right audience, the right audience wants the right speakers, venues want money upfront, money comes from tickets - it goes on... You have to run multiple horses at the same time but once the momentum picks up it all comes together. We started by finding a compelling theme. Then sought out a cornerstone speaker who was willing to commit to us without the framework being completely in place. From there it all gets easier. The venue, logistics, media coverage, and even the gift bags seemed to have flowed from having the right speakers.

The future of physical retail” is an intriguing concept – how did you think of it?

Hilary: Freddie and I both have backgrounds in the fashion/apparel industry and have witnessed first-hand the transformation of traditional bricks-and-mortar. For the last few years, the focus has been on physical retail’s decline and the growth of online - surmising that Amazon will take over the world. But what we’re looking at is simply a shift in consumer behaviour and instead of reeling from it, retailers need to be proactive about their future strategies and development. This disruption is exciting to be a part of, so we are bringing together the most influential leaders in the industry to tell their stories about how they’re responding and discuss the future of physical retail in a positive way.

Tell us a bit more about the speakers.

We met Marco Gentile when he spoke to those of us on the Walpole programme about his experiences in the luxury fashion industry and as President of Burberry for the EMEIA region. Marco started his career in a completely different field, working in audit and consulting for PwC. Whilst at PwC, he was involved in the IPO of Gucci, where he moved to afterwards, spending the next decade at the company (now Kering), working for different brands.

Philippe Warnery was also someone we recruited from a Walpole speaking engagement. Philippe’s career trajectory spans the world and provided insight into the global beauty industry. Philippe began his career at L’Oreal, and later joined LVMH, working in Paris and Singapore. He’s also worked for an array of Estée Lauder brands and eventually landed in New York to lead Origins International. In 2013 he took the role of Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Estée Lauder Companies in Canada.

Hiba is someone we connected with through an LBS partner, which just goes to show the strength of the LBS network! Hiba works at Farfetch in London where she heads the strategy team on its Store of the Future concept, an augmented retail solution that uses technology to enhance the retail experience.

We know Helen Brocklebank well from the Walpole Programme – she’s the CEO of Walpole, which is the trade body for the British luxury industry. Helen’s background is with luxury media brands, starting her career at Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar. Helen’s deep understanding of, and passion for, the business of luxury gives her the insight to ask thought-provoking questions and offer her own strategic opinions on the changes of the industry.

We were linked to Graeme Russell through one of our fellow classmates from the Walpole programme. Graeme is her mentor and works as the Global Head of Brand Communications for Bentley Motors in London. Prior to this role, he was the Chief Communications Officer for Bentley Motors Americas and has worked in the international wine and spirits industry for Edrington.

Dyson is truly an innovator in physical retail, where the stores are driven by product experiences as opposed to transactions, so we were extremely pleased when we connected with Chris Aubry and he agreed to speak at the conference. Chris manages the development and implementation of the retail strategy for Dyson across three global regions.

Charlotte Keesing is the Director of International and Public Affairs at Walpole, where she has worked for over 10 years. Charlotte also came to speak at one of our Walpole events with Philippe and brought her expertise on the global luxury industry. Recently Charlotte spoke at an event centred on the changing state of luxury in the GCC.

Oliver Wyman recently released an innovative report about Retail’s Revolution, highlighting how retail and consumer goods companies need to adapt if they are to prosper. Andrew Glover co-wrote this compelling report and so it was our luck to have met him through an LBS classmate who worked closely with him at Oliver Wyman.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome so far?

Hilary: Making sure we could finance the event properly was a learning experience. Our goal for the conference is to give our guests the best experience, so we had to constantly keep that top of mind when we were making decisions. It was about maximizing our compromises.

Freddie: I mentioned the importance of a cornerstone speaker. The challenging part for us was finding the right person for this as we understand that the best speakers will attract other great speakers. It’s very obvious when you come across the right type of person - at that point if you’ve chosen your theme and positioning correctly it should be a win-win. But...holding out for the right person can be hard the closer you get.

Which parts of the programme evening are you personally looking forward to?

Hilary: All of it! It’s been such a labour of love for us for the past nine months that I can’t wait for the moment when the conference starts where I can look around - look to Freddie and Vale – and just let it roll. I’m also really looking forward to all the speakers and presentations.

Freddie: These speakers don’t share their thoughts and plans publicly very often. It will be amazing to have these insights delivered in this environment.  I guess I’m also looking forward to the moment the final guest leaves and we can relax too!