Posted by: Geoffrey Barraclough  |   Comments  No Response

While the main event took place at Stratford, Her Majesty’s Government was hard at work at Lancaster House selling the UK to the world during The British Business Embassy’s Global Investment Conference – 17 days of conferences to encourage overseas investment.

Day 10 was the Global Business Summit for Retail, Food & Drink. Individual sessions were high quality but the subject matter so wide-ranging that even if you had the forensic skills of TV broadcaster and journalist and facilitator for the day, Michael Buerk, you’d find it hard to keep focus.

I spoke in the afternoon session devoted to omni-channel retail. It was an honour to be among such a top quality set of speakers, including Nick Robertson, founder of ASOS and Sebastian James, Group CEO at Dixons Retail plc. The UK leads the world in home-shopping and, via ASOS and others, is exporting this success to the world.

Perplexingly, the audience probably contained a few too many dairy farmers and artisanal cheese producers to make best use of the content. The milk lobby had turned out in force to lobby Kraft’s CEO who had anchored an earlier session alongside a Coca-Cola exec who answered every question while holding a can of Coke high in the air like an Olympic torch.

Politicians topped and tailed the day, referenced the obligatory announcements of new investment but didn’t appear to be in the sessions to listen to the content or take questions. Still, you can’t fail to be impressed by Vince Cable at kick-off, Caroline Spelman at lunchtime and David Cameron, accompanied cocktails of finest English champagne, once the sun had passed the yardarm.

Joking apart, Sebastian James’ presentation is this week’s must-watch video. Challenged hard by the pure-plays, James gave a cogent and credible explanation of the tangible consumer value generated by multichannel retailers. (The answer: £15 on a £500 TV, since you ask.) Dixons is better at selling the latest products and its suppliers are rewarding it for this. You can watch his speech here.

While everyone is very excited about the growth in online shopping and the speakers congratulated each other on Britain’s leadership in the area, only Michael Buerk picked up the key political consequence. Three million people are employed in our nation’s shops. What is going to happen to them? It was 4.30 by this point and the politicians weren’t in the room…

You can watch my presentation below or to watch the full set from the day from other speakers including ASOS, British Retail Consortium, Dixons Retail and PayPal, visit the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) YouTube channel.

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