The UK is leading global innovation in online grocery shopping, according to Asda president and CEO Andy Clarke.
Clarke was speaking at the Grand Départ Retail Innovation Summit, held to drive an enduring economic legacy following the launch of the Tour de France in Leeds.
He joined a host of other retail leaders including Sarah Dunwell, director of social & environmental affairs at the Company Shop and Mike Barry, director of sustainability at Marks & Spencer.
Clarke’s speech was a key part of the delegate programme at the Summit, where top-flight speakers explored key themes such as sustainability, the environment and omni-channel retailing that will contribute to the strategic vision for the UK retail sector for 2015 and beyond.
Clarke said: “Retail and innovation are two areas that are perfectly aligned to Leeds and its heritage, but what is retail or innovation without customers? My philosophy is to always ask what are customers going to want and how we service that need, it’s a challenge we should be setting ourselves every day.”
Dunwell revealed that the Company Shop, the ethical residual stock retailer, will be opening four social supermarkets in Yorkshire and a further six in London, as part of 20 new sites across the UK. The social supermarkets help families that fall in the gap between mainstream retailers and those at crisis points, by providing residual retail and branded products at up to 70% off their normal price. Alongside this they act as community hubs and provide training and advice aimed at addressing the causes of food poverty.
Barry at Marks & Spencer stressed the need for socially responsible retailing and dispelled the myth of the ‘green premium’ – that ethical or environmental products should cost more.
“There is no such thing as a green premium in the market place. Too many retailers over the last decade have made the mistake of believing that by being a bit greener they can charge a bit more. Forget it,” he said.
“There’s a simple way of looking at this as a consumer, why should I, as a consumer, pay more for a product that hasn’t exploited people and planet? If you’ve got to pay more to sort your sourcing problems, that’s your problem retailer, not mine.”
The industry summit also highlighted the research and experience of the region’s major retail investors and the academic thought leadership of Leeds’ universities, which has seen it become a retail centre of excellence.
This is supported by the rate of the region’s retail development, the Leeds City Region has experienced more retail investment than any other location in Western Europe. And according to figures provided by Hammerson, the developer of the £150m Victoria Gate project, Leeds shoppers are also performing above the national average:
- 60% of shoppers in Leeds have what is termed as affluent lifestyles (55% Manchester)
- Leeds shoppers spend 6% more than those in Manchester
- 41% of all shoppers in Leeds are in the key fashion buying age (16-44)
- Higher spend on men’s and women’s wear than Manchester
Sophie Ross, head of multi-channel at Hammerson, said: “We are seeing consumers moving from the careful years of the recession into the considered years of savvy spending, and to meet the demand, digital must be at the heart of retail.
“Digital retailing is no longer just about providing multi-channel experiences but omni-channel retailing, to offer customers additional support through their shopping experience – for example, using smart phones not only for a mobile site but, to enhance the journey with an enabled, interactive in-store experience.”
Lurene Joseph, CEO of Leeds and Partners, said: “Leeds retail scene is a hot prospect for investors and developers. As a compact alternative to London, we’re an upscale retail destination for consumers from around the world. The latest project to go on site in the region, Hammerson’s Victoria Gate scheme, has taken the development and investment pipeline in Leeds City Region to over £2.5bn. The Retail Innovation Summit has highlighted just some of the factors contributing to that success.”