Retailers peer into the future with 20/20 vision

Retail council of canada conference oct. 25-27the head of the Retail Council of Canada says economic pressures, structural changes to the retail industry and the rapidly changing attitudes of consumers have combined to make the Canadian retail market more challenging than...

Retail council of canada conference oct. 25-27

the head of the Retail Council of Canada says economic pressures, structural changes to the retail industry and the rapidly changing attitudes of consumers have combined to make the Canadian retail market more challenging than ever.

Which is why Alasdair McKichan, president of the Retail Council of Canada, says the conference planning committee for the three-day retail marketing conference decided to take a problem-solving approach.

Conference

McKichan says the conference, entitled ’20/20 Vision: Twenty Ideas for Retail Marketing Success in the ’90s,’ hopes to provide retailers with at least 10 ideas they can implement within the next few weeks, plus the long-term vision necessary to improve their performance.

He says conference seminars will integrate hindsight, insight and foresight.

‘Several of the seminars will be drawing on the lessons of the past,’ McKichan says. ‘In others, we will be looking at current situations where marketers have had some success.

‘Finally, we will try to draw conclusions from current trends, and position them against other perceived influences – social, political and economic change,’ he says.

Cutting edge

While the conference format will resemble that of previous years, McKichan says the case studies presented are new and represent the cutting edge of retail marketing.

He points to a seminar in which University of Leeds professor Martin Clarke will demonstrate Decision Point, a computer software system marketed in Canada by R.L. Polk, that allows the retailer to combine sales, demographic and other types of data with a sophisticated mapping system.

First time

McKichan says that although Decision Point has been used in Europe for about two years, this is the first time Canadian retailers will have seen the modelling system in action.

He says the conference should appeal to several audiences, primarily those who are involved in marketing and merchandising in retail companies, up to and including the chief executive officer.

Other target markets include independent store owners and operators, retail advertising agencies, media and production houses, as well as marketing experts at major retail suppliers.

McKichan says the retail marketing conference, one of two major events the council holds annually, is well attended.

He expects between 300-350 registrants, mostly from southern Ontario.

Referendum

Meanwhile, the Oct. 26 constitutional referendum falls smack in the middle of the Retail Council ‘s conference – an appropriate coincidence given the fact that the future of the retail industry in Canada is inextricably tied to the fate of the nation, McKichan says.

‘The second day [of the conference] will either be a day of celebration or a day of despair,’ he says.

‘If we get a positive result, the very gentle recovery which we are seeing some signs of will continue. If it’s a negative vote, God help us economically.’

Corporate members

The council has about 6,000 corporate members. Of those, about 400 have their headquarters in Quebec, but McKichan says many more do a significant amount of business there.

He says a `no’ vote would complicate the already difficult and uncertain situation in which most Canadian retailers now find themselves.

McKichan says he is advising out-of-town attendees to place their referendum votes in advance. The conference will wrap up at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, allowing registrants in the Toronto area plenty of time to vote.

He says he is hopeful there will be a positive outcome from the referendum, adding ‘nations do commit suicide, but I hope we’ll have the good sense to avoid that.’

The conference will be held at the Prince Hotel in Toronto.