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WRC 2024: 'We greatly value local consumers', say CEOs of Harrods and Galeries Lafayette

By Florence Julienne


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World Retail Congress Paris 2024. From left to right: Selvane Mohandas du Ménil, Michael Ward, Nicolas Houzé. Credits: F. Julienne

Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods (London), and Nicolas Houzé, CEO of Galeries Lafayette (Paris), have shared their expert advice at the World Retail Congress, the international event for retail professionals that kicked off on Tuesday and concludes its talks today, April 18.

Host Selvane Mohandas du Ménil asks the two major retail players what challenges they face. For Ward, it is a question of "getting their customers to buy luxury brands in London, even if they are originally from Paris". Ward's answer stems from creating a brand identity specific to Harrods: "We adapt our brand DNA to build a bond with our customers. They come back to the shop as friends. It's not just about sales, it's also about knowledge."

Houzé agreed: "Galeries Lafayette today is a brand; we strive for the best in luxury. Physical trade remains relevant, even though we have been challenged by the internet, especially during the Covid crisis. But today, buyers are returning to shops."

The entrepreneur stressed the importance of technology. "We are adapting by looking at things from a phygital [physical and digital, ed.] perspective. In light of this, on the initiative of the Carrefour and Publicis groups, we joined the Unlitail platform to have the best possible product range. Customer data is fundamental in this game."

Unilitail is a data-driven platform created for Retail Media in June 2023 by the Carrefour and Publicis groups. According to Carrefour's press release, Unilitail represents companies that collectively have more than 120 million loyal customers and 1.5 billion page visits per month.

A selection of the list of brands it represents: Kingfisher France, Galeries Lafayette Group, Rakuten France, Showroomprive Group, Ïdkids, LuisaViaRoma, MyOrigines, Bringo, Maquillalia, Juguetilandia, Public, and two Carrefour franchise partners in Morocco (LabelVie) and Israel (Electra Consumer Products).

Local consumers as important as tourists for department stores

"The relationship with local consumers is very important," Ward stressed. "We have invested a lot of money in understanding our customers. It's all about how we communicate with them, but it's also about being loyal to the brands we represent."

Houzé added: "Local consumers are the first ones we welcome; they are as important as tourists. Fifty per cent of French people go to our website first to check the offer and whether there is stock. Our challenge is also service and information about what is happening in the shop."

Houzé stressed the importance of consumer knowledge in this regard. "We need to put consumers at the heart of our business and listen to them. They are the boss."

"You need to make sure you can offer them what they want, to make sure you don't miss anything, from the sustainable trend (with Go for Good) to the creation of a space dedicated to wellness. This is so that the time spent in the department store is a joyful one that offers the right services and the right products," Houzé said.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit from French into English by Veerle Versteeg.

Galeries Lafayette
World Retail Congress