The Annual Goldman Sachs Retail Conference held in NYC each year is an event many retail execs and the investment community seem to hold on their calendars. The rooms were packed for all 3-4 concurrent tracks today and yesterday. CEOs, COOs and CEOs from the biggest retailers in the U.S. – most of them publicly traded – came to share updates and perspective on their companies. Here was the roster.
A few themes I heard were:
- Everyone is up this year versus last year (not a terribly hard thing to do) and cautiously optimistic about upcoming peak.
- General agreement that there won’t be a second dip or recession and that we’re past the conventional thought that there would be major bankruptcies and closures of large retailers.
- Many companies have been through transformations (if only I had a dollar for every time I heard that word…) many of which included management changes and financial restructuring.
- Key focus for many was improving customer service and, for some like Home Depot and Nordstrom, it was going back to what made them great retailers before.
- Major focus on better management and allocation of inventory – right stuff in the right place at the right time, with no storage room to spare. By re-engineering inventory flows, retailers are looking to keep store inventories lower, but replenishment flexibility and speed high.
- Leveraging technology across the enterprise, especially around merchandising and inventory systems that improve operational efficiencies.
- Shifting marketing focus and dollars. In Saks’s case, they’ve taken a chunk of national marketing and redistributed it to local marketing, especially at the store level.
- For Walmart, they see their job as serving the many Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, so they focus on being the one-stop shop and meeting their ‘every day low prices’ promise to shoppers who are concious even about saving gas and making only 1 trip to the store.
- Remaining focused on core value prop. For True Religion, that means being a great denim company and not trying to spread too far into a full fashion apparel brand.
- And last but not least, a focus on growing the online channel – a few expect to double their online revenue over the next year
I left feeling optimistic about the coming months. I wish them all good fortune!