Attending the World Retail Congress in Paris 2014

Two weeks have passed since attending this year’s World Retail Congress in Paris, and I’m only getting a chance to do a blog post now after a busy time catching up.

Listening to speakers from some of the world’s biggest companies; Bloomingdale’s, Printemps, John Lewis, Inditex, SAK’s and Samsung to name a few was an amazing experience, but to say I felt like a little fish in a big pond was certainly an understatement!

I met several interesting people during my 3 day visit such as; The Head of International for George at Asda and Fatface and the UK and Ireland manager for Tiffany & Co. I also met other people from small companies like myself, who had come to the event to gain insight into how the bigger companies are embracing the future of retail and also to network and learn.

Here I am with Kirsty from Fatface outside Sotheby’s before the UKTI drinks reception… and the view from my hotel room at night, which was definitely a bonus (excuse the fuzzy image).

Main themes of the congress

The theme of this years congress was “disruption” and how the big retailers are embracing the new era of retail, how technology is evolving and how the consumer (particularly the millenials) are shaping the face of retailing as we know it. An interesting comment was the notion that “the world is becoming a village” and being able to stay relevant in a world where everything is available everywhere is becoming more difficult for retailers.

With regards to international retailing, the central theme was “think globally, act locally”. There was a huge emphasis on international expansion and it was amazing to see how many companies are really focusing their efforts on targeting other markets, for example George (Asda) has a team of 40 people dedicated to expanding the brand overseas as a clothing brand, and not associated with Asda as it is here in the UK. They have been quite successful in Asia where they already have several stores, which is pretty impressive.

This is also the first year that Fatface, the UK clothing brand have really started to focus on overseas expansion, starting off with opening bricks and mortar stores in the US, where they hope to have built several stores on the East coast by mid next year. As well as this, they will be working on launching a US website to reinforce their brand name and build their international presence.

Here are some points from the big companies I jotted down regarding international retailing;

  • Be aware of the market costs i.e.look at the Big Mac pricing. This point came from the Ceo of Hunkemoeller, as an example of how they price their products internationally.
  • Making it work for the local customer in each country, country by country i.e. look at Pizza hut in the West compared to in China where it is known as fine dining.
  • To be an international company, you do not need to sell everywhere, having focus is key.
  • What causes international customers to buy from you? Decide what model you want explore and follow it.

For more information on the main areas of focus at this year’s World Retail Congress have a look at the summary via this link –

If anyone who is also starting out in international ecommerce has any questions for me or would like some advice, I can’t guarantee that I’ll have the answer but I’ll certainly do my best to help, or indeed if anyone has any advice that they would like to share with me, please feel free to get in touch by tweeting @OpentoExport with the hashtag #LornasBlog.

If anyone would like to know more about The Rug House, please feel free to visit the website at



Sectors: Online Retailing
Countries: France
Topics: E-commerce
Export Action Plan