Copyright © 2019 Karl McKeever.
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Media Comment

Karl is a highly respected retail commentator, regularly providing live and pre-recorded interviews on television and radio broadcasts, and contributions to press and trade media titles. Karl is able to offer expert analysis and comments on the retail marketplace, company updates and annual trading results for TV business news.

His broadcast and lifestyle TV work has included both advisory and onscreen roles on BBC TV series including: ‘Supermarket Secrets’, ‘The Fixer with Alex Polizzi’ as a retail expert and‘ The Apprentice’ as a judge in Series 12 and most recently ‘The Trouble with M&S’ for Channel 5 TV.

Topics

Making some dough

Finding new ways to deliver the goods

The pizza market is changing, as consumers demand a hot and tasty meal at the click of a button. So, how are pizza players reacting? The recent tie up between Asda Kitchen and Just Eat offers customers fantastic quality with the bases of our pizzas freshly made instore, along with great value versus popular high-street pizza delivery brands and franchises. In this Insight article within the November issue of British Baker, Karl discusses why the pizza counter is only going to grow in importance for the nation’s grocery retailers.
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John Lewis. A Giant, Sleeping

Has this once much-admired retailer been sleeping at the wheel?

Karl shares his views on a recent shopping experience to John Lewis Milton Keynes with Winifred Robinson on BBC Radio Four ‘You and Yours’ Consumer Affairs Programme. Reflecting on the recent announcement of the John Lewis Partnerships’ corporate restructure, Karl sounds a cautionary note of how the move could negatively impact on shoppers, and where investment should be focused if it is to regain its once fabled position for high retail standards and superior customer service. Click below for the article.
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Taste of Tomorrow

M&S serves up a fresh format for its food store in Clapham.

A series of trading updates suggested that performance at M&S Food – for a long time the one part of the business that’s demonstrated sustained growth – was beginning to stall. But now it’s undergoing a somewhat radical and timely shakeup of its proposition and instore formula.
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Rising Standards

Baking Industry Awards 2019

With a batch of awards up for grabs, the prestigious Baking Industry Awards is an annual gathering to honour excellence within the category. I once again joined the judging panel to decide who would be awarded the coveted title of ‘Best Supermarket Bakery’. At first glance, it’s a choice that seems to go against conventional thinking. The key selling point for any instore bakery is often deemed to be ‘fresh’. That means producing baked on-site – right? Traditionally, that’s been the case. However, the Best Supermarket bakery award exists to not only recognise the quality of the products produced but also for being consistently good, sustainable and innovative.
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Nudge @ The People's Supermarket

A fresh supermarket for the nation’s future health.

At the end of 2017 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the UK was the most overweight country in Western Europe. According to its research, fewer than 15% of the public believe supermarkets are doing enough to tackle the UK’s obesity epidemic. The report also reveals that over 36% of shoppers say that they impulse purchase unhealthy products because they are on special offer, while one in five say supermarkets cause them to go off track when attempting to lose weight.
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Microsoft London

Microsoft's eagerly awaited first London retail outpost reviewed.

Replacing the former Benetton store, it’s position at the crossing of Oxford Street and Regent Street is perhaps a metaphor for the tricky task the brand faces in creating a store that’s appealing for everyone. Here, Microsoft juggle expectations of both a mainstream audience who have come to know and expect their reliable, if not a little ordinary, tech fayre (and for many who have little choice but to use their software products everyday) that has become the international ‘business standard’. Balance this with other consumers who see where and how the brand must step up to compete with edgier ‘designer’ tech brand competitors.
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Retail Revolution

Change may be a constant in retail but this is a seismic, generational shift.

‘Mega trends’ can be a result of cultural or technological change or social, economic and political events that leads to new opportunities. Some can strike a chord with people seeking something new, and indirectly stimulate change. Such developments can unleash highly disruptive forces that act to form powerful influences on consumers, creating new demands and changing their shopping behaviour and along the way, raise expectations. Others have the potential to alter the course of retail history.
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Explorer: Hong Kong

Exploring international retail, Hong Kong style.

Shopping in the busiest areas of Hong Kong, one thing is clear: retail here is still traditional – stubbornly anchored in the past. In one of the most advanced, dynamic, renovated, pampered retail destinations on the planet, this is a true paradox.
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Neiman Marcus, NYC

New Hudson Yards flagship store, reviewed.

Neiman Marcus already has 40 stores across the US but this new three-level is a major undertaking. One of the biggest differences between Texas and New York states can be quickly found in both the life and style of its inhabitants. In Texas bigger really does mean better – a state that proudly shines on big consumption and conspicuous showy wealth. Like the 1980s ‘Dallas TV show’, Texans are not short of cash, or the desire to spend it in a status affirming, social climbing, look at me and my money way. In short, louder really does win out over the understated, pared back, metropolitan designer chic that is the preference of inhabitants on the East Coast.
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Retail's Stars

Adding a human scale to improve the retail experience.

As technology and automation becomes more prevalent in the world of retai. Karl joins The Retail Exchange podcast to discuss the power of people, why human interaction within the physical retail environment is still important, and how retailers can better engage their most valuable of resources.
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Retail's 2019 Resolution

Confidence breeds success. Motivational new year cliché or fact?

2018 ended with ‘consumer confidence at a five-year low’. The results of GfK’s long-running monthly Consumer Confidence Index signed-off a year, that provided few moments of comfort and joy for retail, on another grey note. This was good news for some. The media naturally gravitates towards bad news. Industry pundits are often keen to jump on the gloomy, self-defeating bandwagon. Not us.
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Explorer: Canberra

Canberra is fast becoming ‘the new destination’ for artisans, designers and retail brands.

In an attempt to shake off its sensible, stuffy reputation as the nation’s administrative capital, Canberra has been busy reinventing itself. Many of its original buildings are currently being torn down and replaced by world-class residential, commercial and social spaces. A new Canberra is rising fast, and its importance as a retail destination is likely to only grow stronger.
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Explorer: Gothenburg

Sweden’s second city enjoys a reputation for enterprising independent retail.

Thanks to the country’s healthy welfare system, start-ups in Gothenburg can afford to take more risks, pioneer new ideas and try original ways to sell product. Homegrown brands dominate as a result. Highly individual, often quirky and sometimes playful, they provide a strong point of difference to the cookie-cutter shopping malls we often see in other major cities around the world. Here are just some of Gothenburg’s many independent retailers that help set this great city apart.
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The Future? Bull(ish)

Is tech dominating too much of the retail conversation?

I'm surprised at how, as an industry, we continue to allow tech to dominate the conversation. For me, it’s time we started to restore a greater sense of balance and natural harmony to strategic retail decision-making. All too often now we rely on a device for this, a robot for that. There is (or promised to be) an algorithm, an app, a device and report for everything… every problem a retailer has can be solved digitally. Or so we’re told. Do we really need “experiovation”? Yes, that’s a ‘thing’, apparently.
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Changing Dynamics

Reimagining store design to create immersive brand experiences.

The retail industry continued to witness significant changes. From huge investments by players looking at international markets to M&A, downsizing of store numbers by traditional players to investment in physical stores by ecommerce players. The Valentine flagship store at Lower Parel, Mumbai is a Smart Shop store combining the excitement of Physical Retail with the efficiency of Digital Technology to seamlessly integrate their offline stores with their strong online presence. The store, a dedicated heaven for intimate apparel and lounge wear, was designed to bring out the delicate designs of the brands intimate wear.
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Karl on WHSmiths' future

A stationery state? How can WHSmith move forward?

Karl shares his retail insight with BBC Radio Scotland to discuss how this much-miligned retailer can overcome some of the retail challenges that continue to blight its attempts to revive high street performance.
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Explorer: Köln

One of the strongest retail cities in Germany, frequent change is commonplace.

Germany's fourth largest city, is hoping to shake off the gloom thanks to a number of new store openings. I visited some of the stores that are cementing Köln’s place on Germany’s shopping map, including the recently opened Calvin Klein flagship store. A dedicated boutique located in the main shopping street of Schildergasse, this new build two-story property brings together the entire Calvin Klein apparel, footwear and accessories collections
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Karl talks Debenhams

Do Department Stores have a future?

The struggles continue for one of the UK's most famous department store retailers. Karl talks to ITV News following the Debenhams' AGM to discuss the boardroom reshuffle and the challenges that still lie ahead for the retailer.
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Super Thursday Trading Results

Retail's outlook for 2019

As a host of retailers announce Christmas trading results, Karl discusses the highs and lows for retailers over the festive period and looks ahead to what lies instore for 2019.
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Explorer: NYC

A festive sleigh tour stop-off in New York.

The Tiffany brand is everywhere this year. Having endured disappointing performance recently, the brand is on a mission to tempt more aspiring younger millennial customers. The one negative effect of the brand’s ‘old money’ appeal has been a retail experience. Though premium, it has at times felt somewhat stuffy, staged and out of step with the evolving demands of today’s shoppers. Now the Tiffany experience is being brought to life in new ways within its flagship Fifth Avenue store.
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Holidays Are Coming...

How (if at all) are Christmas campaigns translated instore?

Of the millions spent on these adverts, how many retailers are actually cashing in on their investment, driving carry-through of the campaigns instore and – crucially – inspiring shoppers to purchase? During the past few weeks I’ve made even more of a point of stopping into stores on my business travels, paying close attention to how – and indeed if – Christmas campaigns are translated instore. And the harsh reality is that not many retailers do this particularly well.
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Karl talks Majestic Wine

Pouring over Majestic Wine latest trading results

As Majestic Wines reveals is latest financial results, Karl talks to BBC News about ways the retailer could deliver retail transformation and improve the customer experience to drive future sales growth.
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Look The Beast In The Eye

What can retailers do today to effect immediate change?

A year ago, Visual Thinking launched its Insight Briefing into the department sector, seeking insight into the views, opinions and shopping habits of UK shoppers. Our conclusion was the sector’s future was hanging in the balance. The headlines coming out of House of Fraser, Sears and Hudson’s Bay over the past twelve months, and more recently Debenhams, are sobering and vindicate the reports’ findings. While there has been much talk of ‘transformation’, retailers are having to look the beast squarely in the eye. That means making brave and bold decisions – albeit not headline-friendly ones. This is no time for simply dipping a toe in the sea of change. What’s needed is true evolution followed by effective implementation of change across as many stores as possible, as quickly as possible.
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Explorer: Heraklion

As the Greek economy improves, Crete retail is bouncing back.

Heraklion has seen a number of big chain brand stores arrive in the island’s main port city in recent times. From Intimissimi and H&M to adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Starbucks. For now the effect is to create a two-speed retail class. The destination itself feels somewhat disjointed, with a mixed picture of highs and lows. In a few years time, it is likely that much of the local and authentic character of Heraklion will be overshadowed and squeezed out. But for now, there are still more than a few local retailers that are worthy of a visit.
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Fortune Favours The Brave

Having a strong opinion can make you a hero or a villain… or both.

It's no surprise really that many brands these days take a vanilla, people-pleasing approach, sitting on the proverbial fence, paralysed with fear of causing offence approach. The result? Brand inertia. Boring, middle-of-the-road nothingness. There are exceptions. Marmite has challenged us to ‘love it or hate it’ for years – there’s no room for ‘I don’t know’. And sure, some people hate it. But those that love it, really love it. This is passion and it’s what brands should be inspiring in their customers.
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Rethinking Supermarkets

Do we need to rethink our supermarkets?

Supermarket sales are predicted to hit £197bn by 2021. As the hunger for change in the sector grows, assumptions that have underpinned the business models of the big grocery retail players for so many years no longer hold true. Evolving shopper habits, ongoing cost pressures, increased competition and further consolidation. Karl talks to The Retail Exchange to share his views on what the future could look like for grocery.
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Explorer: San Francisco

Beat 'Karl the Fog' and there are some great retail stores to see.

Specialising in contemporary kitchen interiors, Dzine’s store is everything you’d expect but no less impressive for it. Minimalism is very much the watchword in this store, both for its products and the environment in which they are displayed. Product is undoubtedly king. Yet through the deft use of simple cooking elements and accessories (such as the balanced display of pans and utensils), Dzine elevates the retail experience from one that could have been cold, austere – even pretentious – to one that feels like an engaging and useable space, helping customers to imagine the Pitt Holland made products taking pride of place in their own home.
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Debenhams Watford

First impressions as Debenhams attempts to ‘bring joy back’ to the high street.

Its new Watford store is part of Debenhams' strategy to make shopping easy, sociable and fun. My first thoughts? I have to say that I’m impressed. The store is the realisation of the Debenhams Redesigned strategy. It is cohesive, considered and clearly well planned and thought through.
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Store Review: Jack's by Tesco

Tesco attempts to tackle the rise of the discounters with new fascia.

Make no mistake: this is Tesco laying down the challenge – “We too can have a discount operation and compete just as well on quality and price as you do.” The tagline for the company logo is “8 out of 10 products are British’ and this message was evident during our first glimpse of its launch store in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. From high-level graphics to Union Jack packaging, the message is clear: by buying Jack’s, customers are supporting home grown, reared or made products.
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Karl On Jack's By Tesco

First impressions of Tesco's new discount fascia.

The UK’s biggest grocery retailer aims to tackle the rise of the big two major discounters head on with a promise to sell “the cheapest products in town”. On launch day, Karl talks to BBC Scotland about what it means for Tesco, and the industry. "Make no mistake: this is Tesco laying down the challenge – “We too can have a discount operation and compete just as well on quality and price as you do.”
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Jack's Concept Launch

A new name but still Tesco. So don’t discount them.

By far the biggest question for Tesco’s newest member of the family is one of scalability. For Tesco to make a success of Jack's they are going to have to move fast – at least 100 stores within the next 2 years. Instead, its targeted opposition to the likes of Aldi could only amount to 10-15 Jack’s stores during the next year. That’s hardly a serious challenge. On launch day, Karl talks to BBC News 24 about what the launch of Jack's means for Tesco, and the wider grocery retail sector.
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Karl talks Tesco discount fascia

Jack’s: Tesco's ‘Brexit bargain store’?

It’s hard to escape the feeling that Tesco has zeroed in on ‘Buy British’ post-Brexit opportunities – 74% of people in the Fenland district, where the first Jack’s store is located, voted ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum. Coincidence? On launch day, Karl talks to BBC News 24 about what the new discount fascia from Tesco means for the brand, and the wider grocery retail sector.
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Explorer: San Diego

San Diego is where Millennial Americans are increasingly choosing to live, and shop.

San Francisco Bay is now so expensive it’s displacing people in search of somewhere similar, but more affordable. With its year-round warm climate and socially liberal attitudes, San Diego is now firmly a city in transition.
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Good Enough To Eat

Ever hungry to bring fresh inspiration, this month I take a literal approach by talking food.

My recent personal journey to eating more healthily begged questions not only about what kind of food I should be eating for lunch or dinner, but also the question of ‘what kind of retail experience I want when I go food shopping’. Due to pressures of work it’s all too easy to reach for that quick fix that provides an instant hit of satisfaction. But all too often, you’re still left feeling empty. Sadly, it’s a similar, all-too familiar story in retail too.
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Bakery Industry Awards 2018

Sparking taste buds and the judges’ interest at BIAs 2018.

The efforts of some of the major multiples are not only sparking taste buds, but also the judges’ interest at the 2018 British Bakery Awards. Visual Thinking founder Karl McKeever once again joined the judging panel to decide who would be awarded the coveted title of ‘Supermarket Bakery Business of the Year’. Winners ASDA have taken a ‘back to basics’ approach with their bakery strategy and instore execution. Avoiding the more obvious temptation of developing a new bakery concept, they’ve rolled up their sleeves and reviewed and improved everything about their current ways of working and instore delivery.
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Explorer: Faro

Retail transformation is one thing. But how about regenerating an entire town’s fortunes?

The capital of Portugal’s Algarve once boasted a charming old town and harbour. But lately, tourists are more likely to spot boarded-up buildings, small and shabby bars and restaurants and prolific graffiti. The property boom of the 2000s brought in a massive tourism influx, ably aided by the then-new low-cost airlines opening up the region as the go-to destination. Then came the global economic crisis that bred severe local debt, and subsequent austerity.
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Plastic Fantastic

Summer is boom time for plastic use. How can retailers tackle this growing eco-problem?

Summer is boom time for plastic use. Look around any swimming pool on while holiday this summer and you’re sure to be greeted by the sight of kids splashing around on giant inflatables in the shape of animals, birds, doughnuts... you name it. Despite pressuring their parents to pack them to take home, the vast majority of these are left discarded thanks to luggage allowances and lack of storage space (and use) back home. After all, how often will a giant inflatable turtle be used in a grey UK summer? Although if you have paid £82 for a Sunnylife Tropical Island Inflatable from John Lewis, then… just maybe.
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Bucking The Trend

The ‘death of minimalism’ is becoming a seriously big thing in retail.

Right now in New York City (rarely noted for doing anything that’s pared down), retail design and visual merchandising is adopting a much more theatrical approach. In the run up to the 2000s, high end retailers moved in favour of a very stark instore aesthetic – deliberately very bare, plain and simplistic in an almost monastic sense. Mainstream high street retailers eventually adopted the trend too, stripping back their interiors but, as a result, removing many important brand personality traits too.
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Pride 2018

To mark 30 years of Pride, retailers have come out in support like never before.

In just a few short years Pride has been transformed. Originally an event to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, it has grown to become a truly global celebration of the LGBTQ+community and diversity, in all its forms. But Pride, it seems, is increasingly no longer under the sole ownership of its own community.
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Problem Child

Why the future is decidedly uncertain at the once-reliable parent whisperer, Mothercare.

Buying for a baby can be pretty stressful. What they need is a reassuring retailer who can gently guide them through the maze of choices. Unfortunately, there is a danger that many could soon have nowhere to go. With further restructuring likely, Mothercare’s fate is hanging in the balance. But this is no time for throwing the toys out of the pram.
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Explorer: Washington DC

During latest visit to the US capital, retail business was brisk in its most popular mall.

Business is brisk within its most popular mall destination, Tyson’s Mall. First opened to the public in 1968, it became one of the first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping malls in the Washington metropolitan area. Today, it is still a major draw for those who still want the mall experience in DC, due in large part to a committed programme of investment and refurbishment over the years. This has ensured it has evolved and remained relevant. A great example of this is the addition of an outdoor terrace, complete with artificial lawn and games.
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The Trouble With M&S...

M&S has been off the mark and lacked its spark for several years.

It seems everyone has an opinion, yet some topics are over discussed. M&S is one of them. But listening to the hordes of external voices will, ultimately, add little value either. Like a football stadium filled with thousands of ‘managers’ on a matchday who could all do a better job. What M&S needs now are trusted, experienced hands and (finally) real action to transform retail performance – and quickly.
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Wise Admission?

Could paying to visit a retailer soon become the new norm?

Paying for experiences is hardly new. We visit sporting events, music festivals, the theatre, historical landmarks, and know that there will be an entrance fee. And as more and more retailers are moving towards embracing the new ‘experience economy’, could paying to visit a retailer soon become the new norm?
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Explorer: Venice

Venice: A place where water and ingenuity is plentiful.

Venice could easily be used as a metaphor for the current state of retail. Like the tide that laps against its palazzos, the city is ever-changing, over the years it has been forced to use its initiative, it works hard to maintain a distinct identity, and it continues to rely on innovative ideas in order to survive.
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(Spring) Clean Conscience?

Is it time that consumers with a conscience stopped having to pay the price?

While the new levy will hit those with a sweet tooth, it is consumers with a conscience that have, traditionally, paid the price. Want to support brands that are socially responsible? You’ll pay more. Buy organic – pay more. Make ‘green’ choices in the products you purchase – pay more. ‘We can’t afford to shop at any store that has a “philosophy”!’ Although these words may come from the iconic, albeit fictional, cartoon matriarch Marge Simpson, when discussing where to go shopping, they capture the sentiment perfectly.
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Leave Tech At The Door

I reflects on my visit to this year’s National Retail Federation Big Show in NYC.

Too often the starting point is not a requirement to solve a clearly defined shopper need but the selfish want of retailers to be seen as being on-trend and staying in step with competitors. Whether, despite shiny tech promising to offer salvation, augmented-reality mirrors or QR code scanners, gadgets and gizmos truly do deliver more enticing shopping spaces.
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Leading Ambitions

The importance of strong leadership in delivering retail success.

Leading through continued success takes one type of person. Pulling people up, making them believe and giving them hope and motivation during bleak times takes quite another. While I often like to focus on the importance of teamwork in retail, it would be almost negligent to overlook the importance of that one person at the top – with a clear vision, focus and determination – in delivering success. One such example is departing Burberry boss Christopher Bailey. This visionary leader delivered his last London Fashion Week show recently, and deserves to be applauded for his revolutionary work with the brand.
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Men: Endangered Retail Species?

Masculinity in crisis. Asking new questions and demanding different, and better answers.

The all-powerful, alpha male subtext is no longer dominant. Instead, commentators everywhere – both male and female, across the whole media spectrum – are changing the focus. This new tone is spanning politics, TV, Hollywood and journalism. In the US, Trump, Allen, Weinstein and Spacey are continuing to leave a lasting – and negative – legacy. Closer to home, equal pay rows at the BBC and the fallout from the President’s Club headlines have turned established concepts on their head. While some men have been rightly tamed and shamed, the wider male population may be forgiven for feeling vulnerable and scared to comment or speak out for fear of being shot down.
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Vintage VM: Worth its Weight?

The New Year invariably offers a time for reflection, introspection and re-evaluation.

While many resolutions are often short-lived, increasingly, as a society, we are seeking new ways to achieve a more permanent solution when it comes to reducing consumption levels, in all aspects of our lives. Recycling more, eating less, cutting down on social media, and reducing spending. Thankfully, despite some predicting we are close to some kind of retail apocalypse, it appears we are not ready to shop less – just differently. While upcycling and recycling are far from new watchwords, the growth of the resale market continues apace. The difference is that, increasingly, the vintage sector is shaking off the ‘shabby’ and ‘scruffy’ label, with more and more sophisticated vintage concepts to be found.
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Focus on the here and now

Gleaming technologies promise to change how we shop. But will they – and do we want them to?

Some buy into the myth that only technology can save retail; I don’t. Remember QR codes? And what of NFC or iBeacons? They totally revolutionised shopping, right? All too often, technology is applied for technology’s sake – retailers just can’t help themselves. And often there is scant consideration given to how it benefits shoppers, or if it solves a genuine need.
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Store Review: Woolrich

A focus on heritage has created a style which lingers long beyond the realms of fashion.

Woolrich is founded on the principles of tradition, exploration and a constant search for technical innovation and new materials. Its latest, in Toronto – the brand’s first store in Canada – proves a smart, sophisticated space. It’s perfectly placed, too – the city’s Yorkdale mall is increasingly becoming the premium ‘indoor shopping destination’, housing many upscale national and international brands.
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Canada Makes Merry

Can retailers make Christmas feel special again in store?

Retailers could learn a lesson or two from the way we view these festive songs. For me, window displays aside, there is so much more that retailers can and should be doing to bring a sense of imagination and playfulness to the festive in-store experience through VM, while still harnessing our nostalgic love of tradition.
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Capital Gains?

What happens once the initial excitement of a new store opening has diminished?

London has seen a fresh injection of new entrants on its high streets in recent months. The most notable recent addition was that of Polish fast fashion retailer Reserved; bringing its brand to the UK for the first time. But what happens once the initial excitement of a new opening has diminished?
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Dreaming of a Canadian Christmas...

It’s not just UK snowfall that's set to a pale imitation of what Canadians enjoy this winter.

On my visit to Toronto last month, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way Canadian stores have embraced the festive season. This year, they have gone all out to really bring the wow factor, delivering a fantastic offering that leaves instore celebrations in the UK... well, out in the cold – feeling somewhat tired and underwhelming by comparison.
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Retail 2018 Influencers

The 2018 edition of Vend’s list of Top 100 Retail Influencers has been published.

The 2018 edition of Vend’s list of top retail influencers has been published. This year, the list has been expanded to add more individuals outside of North America, with Visual Thinking founder and managing director Karl McKeever joining leading figures including Matthew Shay, president and CEO at National Retail Federation, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, and Bryan Roberts, global insights director at TCC Global.
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VM & Display Awards - Foreword

There are few constants in retail. One standout is the relentless need to evolve and adapt.

As a result of changes being taken within, and forced upon the industry, the pressure to make retail experiences more engaging, effective and efficient has never been greater. Squeezed from one end by increased competition and rising operating costs, and shoppers who are increasingly transient at the other; there is no shortage of retailers left wondering what their best options are for the future.
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Explorer: Berlin

This thriving powerhouse city also sings with an independent spirit.

The powerhouse within the EU, you'd be forgiven for assuming that the city’s retail landscape is dominated by the big in-your-face brands. Brimming with unconventional delights, enthusiastically celebrating individual audacity and placing an intricate focus on service. While there is plenty on offer for those seeking the big and the bold, those seeking to explore a new path will find a world of much smaller delights at their fingertips.
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Time To Hit 'Reset'

As with many good ideas, the old ones are often the best.

It is time to hit the reset button. I’m not talking about complex five-year retail transformation strategies designed to find a new sense of purpose and better engage customers in the face of evolving shopping behaviour – though, clearly, many retailers have lots of big-picture thinking still to do. No, I’m talking about a different kind of reset. Dubbed ‘Project Reboot’, Topshop's decision to temporarily close the vast majority of its stores in order to overhaul its merchandising before the start of Christmas was hailed by some journalists as an ‘unusual step’. For Arcadia: yes. But as with many good ideas, the old ones are often the best.
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Toying With Transformation

The world’s largest toy retailer files for bankruptcy ahead of the busiest toy-buying season.

For Toys R Us fun has come at a price. As recent examples have gone to show, survival in the current volatility requires not just resilience but the vision to successfully land transformational change. The retailer’s statement that its stores will ‘continue to operate as usual’ is clearly a statement designed to provide comfort in turbulent times, (for investors, store teams, and shoppers). Though in reality what it must do is anything but the ‘usual’ – and fast.
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San Fran Tech Rush

San Francisco may be small in size, but it has always had big ambition.

Home to a slew of corporate tech pioneers, such as Alphabet Inc, Airbnb and Uber, San Francisco is also a city that rivals New York and LA for brand appeal. The result is a city awash with opinion makers, taste shapers and sector disruptors who are exposed to the latest digital thinking on a daily basis, in all aspects of life. On my latest visit to the Bay Area, the appetite for experimentation was clear, with countless retailers trialing new tech initiatives.
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Making The Cut

Assessing the impact as a number of retailers embark on major restructuring programmes.

While the rest of us have just begun readjusting to life back at the office, several retailers have announced that the axe will fall on thousands of jobs. They are just the latest in a growing number of retailers to embark on major restructuring programmes that, in one form or another, will have a significant impact on retail operations.
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Nudge @ The People's Supermarket

A fresh supermarket for the nation’s future health.

At the end of 2017 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the UK was the most overweight country in Western Europe. According to its research, fewer than 15% of the public believe supermarkets are doing enough to tackle the UK’s obesity epidemic. The report also reveals that over 36% of shoppers say that they impulse purchase unhealthy products because they are on special offer, while one in five say supermarkets cause them to go off track when attempting to lose weight.
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Changing Dynamics

Reimagining store design to create immersive brand experiences.

The retail industry continued to witness significant changes. From huge investments by players looking at international markets to M&A, downsizing of store numbers by traditional players to investment in physical stores by ecommerce players. The Valentine flagship store at Lower Parel, Mumbai is a Smart Shop store combining the excitement of Physical Retail with the efficiency of Digital Technology to seamlessly integrate their offline stores with their strong online presence. The store, a dedicated heaven for intimate apparel and lounge wear, was designed to bring out the delicate designs of the brands intimate wear.
Read moreContact Me

Holidays Are Coming...

How (if at all) are Christmas campaigns translated instore?

Of the millions spent on these adverts, how many retailers are actually cashing in on their investment, driving carry-through of the campaigns instore and – crucially – inspiring shoppers to purchase? During the past few weeks I’ve made even more of a point of stopping into stores on my business travels, paying close attention to how – and indeed if – Christmas campaigns are translated instore. And the harsh reality is that not many retailers do this particularly well.
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Good Enough To Eat

Ever hungry to bring fresh inspiration, this month I take a literal approach by talking food.

My recent personal journey to eating more healthily begged questions not only about what kind of food I should be eating for lunch or dinner, but also the question of ‘what kind of retail experience I want when I go food shopping’. Due to pressures of work it’s all too easy to reach for that quick fix that provides an instant hit of satisfaction. But all too often, you’re still left feeling empty. Sadly, it’s a similar, all-too familiar story in retail too.
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Wise Admission?

Could paying to visit a retailer soon become the new norm?

Paying for experiences is hardly new. We visit sporting events, music festivals, the theatre, historical landmarks, and know that there will be an entrance fee. And as more and more retailers are moving towards embracing the new ‘experience economy’, could paying to visit a retailer soon become the new norm?
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Canada Makes Merry

Can retailers make Christmas feel special again in store?

Retailers could learn a lesson or two from the way we view these festive songs. For me, window displays aside, there is so much more that retailers can and should be doing to bring a sense of imagination and playfulness to the festive in-store experience through VM, while still harnessing our nostalgic love of tradition.
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Dreaming of a Canadian Christmas...

It’s not just UK snowfall that's set to a pale imitation of what Canadians enjoy this winter.

On my visit to Toronto last month, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way Canadian stores have embraced the festive season. This year, they have gone all out to really bring the wow factor, delivering a fantastic offering that leaves instore celebrations in the UK... well, out in the cold – feeling somewhat tired and underwhelming by comparison.
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Toying With Transformation

The world’s largest toy retailer files for bankruptcy ahead of the busiest toy-buying season.

For Toys R Us fun has come at a price. As recent examples have gone to show, survival in the current volatility requires not just resilience but the vision to successfully land transformational change. The retailer’s statement that its stores will ‘continue to operate as usual’ is clearly a statement designed to provide comfort in turbulent times, (for investors, store teams, and shoppers). Though in reality what it must do is anything but the ‘usual’ – and fast.
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Explorer: Hong Kong

Exploring international retail, Hong Kong style.

Shopping in the busiest areas of Hong Kong, one thing is clear: retail here is still traditional – stubbornly anchored in the past. In one of the most advanced, dynamic, renovated, pampered retail destinations on the planet, this is a true paradox.
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Neiman Marcus, NYC

New Hudson Yards flagship store, reviewed.

Neiman Marcus already has 40 stores across the US but this new three-level is a major undertaking. One of the biggest differences between Texas and New York states can be quickly found in both the life and style of its inhabitants. In Texas bigger really does mean better – a state that proudly shines on big consumption and conspicuous showy wealth. Like the 1980s ‘Dallas TV show’, Texans are not short of cash, or the desire to spend it in a status affirming, social climbing, look at me and my money way. In short, louder really does win out over the understated, pared back, metropolitan designer chic that is the preference of inhabitants on the East Coast.
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Explorer: Canberra

Canberra is fast becoming ‘the new destination’ for artisans, designers and retail brands.

In an attempt to shake off its sensible, stuffy reputation as the nation’s administrative capital, Canberra has been busy reinventing itself. Many of its original buildings are currently being torn down and replaced by world-class residential, commercial and social spaces. A new Canberra is rising fast, and its importance as a retail destination is likely to only grow stronger.
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Explorer: Gothenburg

Sweden’s second city enjoys a reputation for enterprising independent retail.

Thanks to the country’s healthy welfare system, start-ups in Gothenburg can afford to take more risks, pioneer new ideas and try original ways to sell product. Homegrown brands dominate as a result. Highly individual, often quirky and sometimes playful, they provide a strong point of difference to the cookie-cutter shopping malls we often see in other major cities around the world. Here are just some of Gothenburg’s many independent retailers that help set this great city apart.
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Explorer: Köln

One of the strongest retail cities in Germany, frequent change is commonplace.

Germany's fourth largest city, is hoping to shake off the gloom thanks to a number of new store openings. I visited some of the stores that are cementing Köln’s place on Germany’s shopping map, including the recently opened Calvin Klein flagship store. A dedicated boutique located in the main shopping street of Schildergasse, this new build two-story property brings together the entire Calvin Klein apparel, footwear and accessories collections
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Explorer: NYC

A festive sleigh tour stop-off in New York.

The Tiffany brand is everywhere this year. Having endured disappointing performance recently, the brand is on a mission to tempt more aspiring younger millennial customers. The one negative effect of the brand’s ‘old money’ appeal has been a retail experience. Though premium, it has at times felt somewhat stuffy, staged and out of step with the evolving demands of today’s shoppers. Now the Tiffany experience is being brought to life in new ways within its flagship Fifth Avenue store.
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Explorer: San Francisco

Beat 'Karl the Fog' and there are some great retail stores to see.

Specialising in contemporary kitchen interiors, Dzine’s store is everything you’d expect but no less impressive for it. Minimalism is very much the watchword in this store, both for its products and the environment in which they are displayed. Product is undoubtedly king. Yet through the deft use of simple cooking elements and accessories (such as the balanced display of pans and utensils), Dzine elevates the retail experience from one that could have been cold, austere – even pretentious – to one that feels like an engaging and useable space, helping customers to imagine the Pitt Holland made products taking pride of place in their own home.
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Explorer: San Diego

San Diego is where Millennial Americans are increasingly choosing to live, and shop.

San Francisco Bay is now so expensive it’s displacing people in search of somewhere similar, but more affordable. With its year-round warm climate and socially liberal attitudes, San Diego is now firmly a city in transition.
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Explorer: Faro

Retail transformation is one thing. But how about regenerating an entire town’s fortunes?

The capital of Portugal’s Algarve once boasted a charming old town and harbour. But lately, tourists are more likely to spot boarded-up buildings, small and shabby bars and restaurants and prolific graffiti. The property boom of the 2000s brought in a massive tourism influx, ably aided by the then-new low-cost airlines opening up the region as the go-to destination. Then came the global economic crisis that bred severe local debt, and subsequent austerity.
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Explorer: Washington DC

During latest visit to the US capital, retail business was brisk in its most popular mall.

Business is brisk within its most popular mall destination, Tyson’s Mall. First opened to the public in 1968, it became one of the first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping malls in the Washington metropolitan area. Today, it is still a major draw for those who still want the mall experience in DC, due in large part to a committed programme of investment and refurbishment over the years. This has ensured it has evolved and remained relevant. A great example of this is the addition of an outdoor terrace, complete with artificial lawn and games.
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Explorer: Venice

Venice: A place where water and ingenuity is plentiful.

Venice could easily be used as a metaphor for the current state of retail. Like the tide that laps against its palazzos, the city is ever-changing, over the years it has been forced to use its initiative, it works hard to maintain a distinct identity, and it continues to rely on innovative ideas in order to survive.
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Store Review: Woolrich

A focus on heritage has created a style which lingers long beyond the realms of fashion.

Woolrich is founded on the principles of tradition, exploration and a constant search for technical innovation and new materials. Its latest, in Toronto – the brand’s first store in Canada – proves a smart, sophisticated space. It’s perfectly placed, too – the city’s Yorkdale mall is increasingly becoming the premium ‘indoor shopping destination’, housing many upscale national and international brands.
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Explorer: Berlin

This thriving powerhouse city also sings with an independent spirit.

The powerhouse within the EU, you'd be forgiven for assuming that the city’s retail landscape is dominated by the big in-your-face brands. Brimming with unconventional delights, enthusiastically celebrating individual audacity and placing an intricate focus on service. While there is plenty on offer for those seeking the big and the bold, those seeking to explore a new path will find a world of much smaller delights at their fingertips.
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Rising Standards

Baking Industry Awards 2019

With a batch of awards up for grabs, the prestigious Baking Industry Awards is an annual gathering to honour excellence within the category. I once again joined the judging panel to decide who would be awarded the coveted title of ‘Best Supermarket Bakery’. At first glance, it’s a choice that seems to go against conventional thinking. The key selling point for any instore bakery is often deemed to be ‘fresh’. That means producing baked on-site – right? Traditionally, that’s been the case. However, the Best Supermarket bakery award exists to not only recognise the quality of the products produced but also for being consistently good, sustainable and innovative.
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Bakery Industry Awards 2018

Sparking taste buds and the judges’ interest at BIAs 2018.

The efforts of some of the major multiples are not only sparking taste buds, but also the judges’ interest at the 2018 British Bakery Awards. Visual Thinking founder Karl McKeever once again joined the judging panel to decide who would be awarded the coveted title of ‘Supermarket Bakery Business of the Year’. Winners ASDA have taken a ‘back to basics’ approach with their bakery strategy and instore execution. Avoiding the more obvious temptation of developing a new bakery concept, they’ve rolled up their sleeves and reviewed and improved everything about their current ways of working and instore delivery.
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Bucking The Trend

The ‘death of minimalism’ is becoming a seriously big thing in retail.

Right now in New York City (rarely noted for doing anything that’s pared down), retail design and visual merchandising is adopting a much more theatrical approach. In the run up to the 2000s, high end retailers moved in favour of a very stark instore aesthetic – deliberately very bare, plain and simplistic in an almost monastic sense. Mainstream high street retailers eventually adopted the trend too, stripping back their interiors but, as a result, removing many important brand personality traits too.
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Vintage VM: Worth its Weight?

The New Year invariably offers a time for reflection, introspection and re-evaluation.

While many resolutions are often short-lived, increasingly, as a society, we are seeking new ways to achieve a more permanent solution when it comes to reducing consumption levels, in all aspects of our lives. Recycling more, eating less, cutting down on social media, and reducing spending. Thankfully, despite some predicting we are close to some kind of retail apocalypse, it appears we are not ready to shop less – just differently. While upcycling and recycling are far from new watchwords, the growth of the resale market continues apace. The difference is that, increasingly, the vintage sector is shaking off the ‘shabby’ and ‘scruffy’ label, with more and more sophisticated vintage concepts to be found.
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VM & Display Awards - Foreword

There are few constants in retail. One standout is the relentless need to evolve and adapt.

As a result of changes being taken within, and forced upon the industry, the pressure to make retail experiences more engaging, effective and efficient has never been greater. Squeezed from one end by increased competition and rising operating costs, and shoppers who are increasingly transient at the other; there is no shortage of retailers left wondering what their best options are for the future.
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Time To Hit 'Reset'

As with many good ideas, the old ones are often the best.

It is time to hit the reset button. I’m not talking about complex five-year retail transformation strategies designed to find a new sense of purpose and better engage customers in the face of evolving shopping behaviour – though, clearly, many retailers have lots of big-picture thinking still to do. No, I’m talking about a different kind of reset. Dubbed ‘Project Reboot’, Topshop's decision to temporarily close the vast majority of its stores in order to overhaul its merchandising before the start of Christmas was hailed by some journalists as an ‘unusual step’. For Arcadia: yes. But as with many good ideas, the old ones are often the best.
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John Lewis. A Giant, Sleeping

Has this once much-admired retailer been sleeping at the wheel?

Karl shares his views on a recent shopping experience to John Lewis Milton Keynes with Winifred Robinson on BBC Radio Four ‘You and Yours’ Consumer Affairs Programme. Reflecting on the recent announcement of the John Lewis Partnerships’ corporate restructure, Karl sounds a cautionary note of how the move could negatively impact on shoppers, and where investment should be focused if it is to regain its once fabled position for high retail standards and superior customer service. Click below for the article.
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Retail's Stars

Adding a human scale to improve the retail experience.

As technology and automation becomes more prevalent in the world of retai. Karl joins The Retail Exchange podcast to discuss the power of people, why human interaction within the physical retail environment is still important, and how retailers can better engage their most valuable of resources.
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Retail's 2019 Resolution

Confidence breeds success. Motivational new year cliché or fact?

2018 ended with ‘consumer confidence at a five-year low’. The results of GfK’s long-running monthly Consumer Confidence Index signed-off a year, that provided few moments of comfort and joy for retail, on another grey note. This was good news for some. The media naturally gravitates towards bad news. Industry pundits are often keen to jump on the gloomy, self-defeating bandwagon. Not us.
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Karl on WHSmiths' future

A stationery state? How can WHSmith move forward?

Karl shares his retail insight with BBC Radio Scotland to discuss how this much-miligned retailer can overcome some of the retail challenges that continue to blight its attempts to revive high street performance.
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Karl talks Debenhams

Do Department Stores have a future?

The struggles continue for one of the UK's most famous department store retailers. Karl talks to ITV News following the Debenhams' AGM to discuss the boardroom reshuffle and the challenges that still lie ahead for the retailer.
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Super Thursday Trading Results

Retail's outlook for 2019

As a host of retailers announce Christmas trading results, Karl discusses the highs and lows for retailers over the festive period and looks ahead to what lies instore for 2019.
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Karl talks Majestic Wine

Pouring over Majestic Wine latest trading results

As Majestic Wines reveals is latest financial results, Karl talks to BBC News about ways the retailer could deliver retail transformation and improve the customer experience to drive future sales growth.
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Look The Beast In The Eye

What can retailers do today to effect immediate change?

A year ago, Visual Thinking launched its Insight Briefing into the department sector, seeking insight into the views, opinions and shopping habits of UK shoppers. Our conclusion was the sector’s future was hanging in the balance. The headlines coming out of House of Fraser, Sears and Hudson’s Bay over the past twelve months, and more recently Debenhams, are sobering and vindicate the reports’ findings. While there has been much talk of ‘transformation’, retailers are having to look the beast squarely in the eye. That means making brave and bold decisions – albeit not headline-friendly ones. This is no time for simply dipping a toe in the sea of change. What’s needed is true evolution followed by effective implementation of change across as many stores as possible, as quickly as possible.
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Explorer: Heraklion

As the Greek economy improves, Crete retail is bouncing back.

Heraklion has seen a number of big chain brand stores arrive in the island’s main port city in recent times. From Intimissimi and H&M to adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Starbucks. For now the effect is to create a two-speed retail class. The destination itself feels somewhat disjointed, with a mixed picture of highs and lows. In a few years time, it is likely that much of the local and authentic character of Heraklion will be overshadowed and squeezed out. But for now, there are still more than a few local retailers that are worthy of a visit.
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Fortune Favours The Brave

Having a strong opinion can make you a hero or a villain… or both.

It's no surprise really that many brands these days take a vanilla, people-pleasing approach, sitting on the proverbial fence, paralysed with fear of causing offence approach. The result? Brand inertia. Boring, middle-of-the-road nothingness. There are exceptions. Marmite has challenged us to ‘love it or hate it’ for years – there’s no room for ‘I don’t know’. And sure, some people hate it. But those that love it, really love it. This is passion and it’s what brands should be inspiring in their customers.
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Rethinking Supermarkets

Do we need to rethink our supermarkets?

Supermarket sales are predicted to hit £197bn by 2021. As the hunger for change in the sector grows, assumptions that have underpinned the business models of the big grocery retail players for so many years no longer hold true. Evolving shopper habits, ongoing cost pressures, increased competition and further consolidation. Karl talks to The Retail Exchange to share his views on what the future could look like for grocery.
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Karl On Jack's By Tesco

First impressions of Tesco's new discount fascia.

The UK’s biggest grocery retailer aims to tackle the rise of the big two major discounters head on with a promise to sell “the cheapest products in town”. On launch day, Karl talks to BBC Scotland about what it means for Tesco, and the industry. "Make no mistake: this is Tesco laying down the challenge – “We too can have a discount operation and compete just as well on quality and price as you do.”
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Jack's Concept Launch

A new name but still Tesco. So don’t discount them.

By far the biggest question for Tesco’s newest member of the family is one of scalability. For Tesco to make a success of Jack's they are going to have to move fast – at least 100 stores within the next 2 years. Instead, its targeted opposition to the likes of Aldi could only amount to 10-15 Jack’s stores during the next year. That’s hardly a serious challenge. On launch day, Karl talks to BBC News 24 about what the launch of Jack's means for Tesco, and the wider grocery retail sector.
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Karl talks Tesco discount fascia

Jack’s: Tesco's ‘Brexit bargain store’?

It’s hard to escape the feeling that Tesco has zeroed in on ‘Buy British’ post-Brexit opportunities – 74% of people in the Fenland district, where the first Jack’s store is located, voted ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum. Coincidence? On launch day, Karl talks to BBC News 24 about what the new discount fascia from Tesco means for the brand, and the wider grocery retail sector.
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Plastic Fantastic

Summer is boom time for plastic use. How can retailers tackle this growing eco-problem?

Summer is boom time for plastic use. Look around any swimming pool on while holiday this summer and you’re sure to be greeted by the sight of kids splashing around on giant inflatables in the shape of animals, birds, doughnuts... you name it. Despite pressuring their parents to pack them to take home, the vast majority of these are left discarded thanks to luggage allowances and lack of storage space (and use) back home. After all, how often will a giant inflatable turtle be used in a grey UK summer? Although if you have paid £82 for a Sunnylife Tropical Island Inflatable from John Lewis, then… just maybe.
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Pride 2018

To mark 30 years of Pride, retailers have come out in support like never before.

In just a few short years Pride has been transformed. Originally an event to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, it has grown to become a truly global celebration of the LGBTQ+community and diversity, in all its forms. But Pride, it seems, is increasingly no longer under the sole ownership of its own community.
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Problem Child

Why the future is decidedly uncertain at the once-reliable parent whisperer, Mothercare.

Buying for a baby can be pretty stressful. What they need is a reassuring retailer who can gently guide them through the maze of choices. Unfortunately, there is a danger that many could soon have nowhere to go. With further restructuring likely, Mothercare’s fate is hanging in the balance. But this is no time for throwing the toys out of the pram.
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The Trouble With M&S...

M&S has been off the mark and lacked its spark for several years.

It seems everyone has an opinion, yet some topics are over discussed. M&S is one of them. But listening to the hordes of external voices will, ultimately, add little value either. Like a football stadium filled with thousands of ‘managers’ on a matchday who could all do a better job. What M&S needs now are trusted, experienced hands and (finally) real action to transform retail performance – and quickly.
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(Spring) Clean Conscience?

Is it time that consumers with a conscience stopped having to pay the price?

While the new levy will hit those with a sweet tooth, it is consumers with a conscience that have, traditionally, paid the price. Want to support brands that are socially responsible? You’ll pay more. Buy organic – pay more. Make ‘green’ choices in the products you purchase – pay more. ‘We can’t afford to shop at any store that has a “philosophy”!’ Although these words may come from the iconic, albeit fictional, cartoon matriarch Marge Simpson, when discussing where to go shopping, they capture the sentiment perfectly.
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Men: Endangered Retail Species?

Masculinity in crisis. Asking new questions and demanding different, and better answers.

The all-powerful, alpha male subtext is no longer dominant. Instead, commentators everywhere – both male and female, across the whole media spectrum – are changing the focus. This new tone is spanning politics, TV, Hollywood and journalism. In the US, Trump, Allen, Weinstein and Spacey are continuing to leave a lasting – and negative – legacy. Closer to home, equal pay rows at the BBC and the fallout from the President’s Club headlines have turned established concepts on their head. While some men have been rightly tamed and shamed, the wider male population may be forgiven for feeling vulnerable and scared to comment or speak out for fear of being shot down.
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Capital Gains?

What happens once the initial excitement of a new store opening has diminished?

London has seen a fresh injection of new entrants on its high streets in recent months. The most notable recent addition was that of Polish fast fashion retailer Reserved; bringing its brand to the UK for the first time. But what happens once the initial excitement of a new opening has diminished?
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Retail 2018 Influencers

The 2018 edition of Vend’s list of Top 100 Retail Influencers has been published.

The 2018 edition of Vend’s list of top retail influencers has been published. This year, the list has been expanded to add more individuals outside of North America, with Visual Thinking founder and managing director Karl McKeever joining leading figures including Matthew Shay, president and CEO at National Retail Federation, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, and Bryan Roberts, global insights director at TCC Global.
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Taste of Tomorrow

M&S serves up a fresh format for its food store in Clapham.

A series of trading updates suggested that performance at M&S Food – for a long time the one part of the business that’s demonstrated sustained growth – was beginning to stall. But now it’s undergoing a somewhat radical and timely shakeup of its proposition and instore formula.
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Microsoft London

Microsoft's eagerly awaited first London retail outpost reviewed.

Replacing the former Benetton store, it’s position at the crossing of Oxford Street and Regent Street is perhaps a metaphor for the tricky task the brand faces in creating a store that’s appealing for everyone. Here, Microsoft juggle expectations of both a mainstream audience who have come to know and expect their reliable, if not a little ordinary, tech fayre (and for many who have little choice but to use their software products everyday) that has become the international ‘business standard’. Balance this with other consumers who see where and how the brand must step up to compete with edgier ‘designer’ tech brand competitors.
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Retail Revolution

Change may be a constant in retail but this is a seismic, generational shift.

‘Mega trends’ can be a result of cultural or technological change or social, economic and political events that leads to new opportunities. Some can strike a chord with people seeking something new, and indirectly stimulate change. Such developments can unleash highly disruptive forces that act to form powerful influences on consumers, creating new demands and changing their shopping behaviour and along the way, raise expectations. Others have the potential to alter the course of retail history.
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The Future? Bull(ish)

Is tech dominating too much of the retail conversation?

I'm surprised at how, as an industry, we continue to allow tech to dominate the conversation. For me, it’s time we started to restore a greater sense of balance and natural harmony to strategic retail decision-making. All too often now we rely on a device for this, a robot for that. There is (or promised to be) an algorithm, an app, a device and report for everything… every problem a retailer has can be solved digitally. Or so we’re told. Do we really need “experiovation”? Yes, that’s a ‘thing’, apparently.
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Debenhams Watford

First impressions as Debenhams attempts to ‘bring joy back’ to the high street.

Its new Watford store is part of Debenhams' strategy to make shopping easy, sociable and fun. My first thoughts? I have to say that I’m impressed. The store is the realisation of the Debenhams Redesigned strategy. It is cohesive, considered and clearly well planned and thought through.
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Store Review: Jack's by Tesco

Tesco attempts to tackle the rise of the discounters with new fascia.

Make no mistake: this is Tesco laying down the challenge – “We too can have a discount operation and compete just as well on quality and price as you do.” The tagline for the company logo is “8 out of 10 products are British’ and this message was evident during our first glimpse of its launch store in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. From high-level graphics to Union Jack packaging, the message is clear: by buying Jack’s, customers are supporting home grown, reared or made products.
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Leave Tech At The Door

I reflects on my visit to this year’s National Retail Federation Big Show in NYC.

Too often the starting point is not a requirement to solve a clearly defined shopper need but the selfish want of retailers to be seen as being on-trend and staying in step with competitors. Whether, despite shiny tech promising to offer salvation, augmented-reality mirrors or QR code scanners, gadgets and gizmos truly do deliver more enticing shopping spaces.
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Focus on the here and now

Gleaming technologies promise to change how we shop. But will they – and do we want them to?

Some buy into the myth that only technology can save retail; I don’t. Remember QR codes? And what of NFC or iBeacons? They totally revolutionised shopping, right? All too often, technology is applied for technology’s sake – retailers just can’t help themselves. And often there is scant consideration given to how it benefits shoppers, or if it solves a genuine need.
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San Fran Tech Rush

San Francisco may be small in size, but it has always had big ambition.

Home to a slew of corporate tech pioneers, such as Alphabet Inc, Airbnb and Uber, San Francisco is also a city that rivals New York and LA for brand appeal. The result is a city awash with opinion makers, taste shapers and sector disruptors who are exposed to the latest digital thinking on a daily basis, in all aspects of life. On my latest visit to the Bay Area, the appetite for experimentation was clear, with countless retailers trialing new tech initiatives.
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Leading Ambitions

The importance of strong leadership in delivering retail success.

Leading through continued success takes one type of person. Pulling people up, making them believe and giving them hope and motivation during bleak times takes quite another. While I often like to focus on the importance of teamwork in retail, it would be almost negligent to overlook the importance of that one person at the top – with a clear vision, focus and determination – in delivering success. One such example is departing Burberry boss Christopher Bailey. This visionary leader delivered his last London Fashion Week show recently, and deserves to be applauded for his revolutionary work with the brand.
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Making The Cut

Assessing the impact as a number of retailers embark on major restructuring programmes.

While the rest of us have just begun readjusting to life back at the office, several retailers have announced that the axe will fall on thousands of jobs. They are just the latest in a growing number of retailers to embark on major restructuring programmes that, in one form or another, will have a significant impact on retail operations.
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