On February 24-27, 2019 The Retail industry Leaders Association (RILA) held their annual conference in Orlando, Florida. As a first-time attendee, I found that the conference delivered on its promise of engaging topics. There are a couple of themes and three specific sessions that I found particularly impactful.
In terms of themes, the one topic that was on top of mind in most sessions was labor. This manifested itself in conversations around sourcing, developing, managing and retaining labor in an era of extremely low unemployment.
Gary Maxwell, from Dollar Tree, laid out a simple yet effective strategy for combating the recruiting challenges experienced by those in the Supply Chain and Warehousing industries.
- Expanding the recruiting pool by going after non-traditional workers
- Connecting jobs to a higher purpose to combat some misconceptions about the quality of the work
- Selectively automating functions to reduce the physical demand of the job
In a panel session, Chris Bright VP, Supply Chain Operations for Nordstrom highlighted the need for companies to consider the cost of attrition when planning their labor needs. He drew the analogy between a labor model and a car, where technology provides the power, engagement is the fuel, but culture is the transmission that allows all the potential to become reality. He also emphasized the need to focus on people to achieve operational goals.
There were numerous wonderful discussions and presentations from Dick Johnson of Footlocker, Arthur Valdez of Target, and Dean Carter from Patagonia among others…But, the presentation that stood out the most for me was from Barbara Kahn of The Wharton School of Business.
Barbara spoke on the Shopping Revolution and outlined a
model to help explain, among other things, the emergence of Amazon as a world
power. She outlined four strategies for differentiation, and showed how
successful companies dominate one, leverage it to become a leader in another,
then maintain a “good enough” position in the other two. The four quadrants in
her model break down between product benefits and customer experience on one
axis and increasing pleasure versus eliminating pain on the other axis.
The four quadrants are:
|Product Benefits||Customer Experience|
|Increase Pleasure||Brand (i.e. Zara)||Experiential (i.e. Sephora)|
|Eliminate Pain Points||Low Price (i.e. Walmart)||Frictionless (i.e. Amazon)|
Suffice it to say, I am excited to read her book, The Shopping Revolution: How Successful Retailers Win Customers in an Era of Endless Disruption.
I found the RILA 2019 Link conference to be of tremendous value and cannot wait to go back next year. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fresh perspective on the current state of the Supply Chain industry, who enjoys networking with other senior executives going through similar challenges, or for anyone with an inquisitive mind who just enjoys learning.