2020 Retail Outlook

The Philippines’ retail landscape is vibrant and appealing. Being conducive to different formats of retail, it is fascinating to know that brick-and-mortars continue to thrive along with the growth of the digital market. Filipino retailers are determined to step up to the global scene and in order to get into it, we need to help them become globally competitive and adopt world-class standards and practices.

The Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) provides Filipino retailers vital information and the latest trends in the industry to help them sustain and elevate their retailing business. As president of PRA, I believe that we need to pursue continuous innovation and development to remain relevant.

To continue this objective, I, together with chairman emeritus Samie Lim, chairman Atty. Paul Santos, and secretary general Evelyn Salire, attended the annual meeting of the Federation of International Retail Associations (FIRA) this month in New York City. FIRA promotes networking, collaboration, and information exchange among retail trade association executives around the world to enhance the success of the global retail industry through the development of more informed and effective retail trade associations.

As the Philippines’ recognized organization “of the retailers and for the retailers,” PRA is one of the member countries of this global retail association, which was spearheaded by the National Retail Federation (NRF) of the US. The gathering of international retail association leaders gave birth to FIRA to learn about other associations’ operations and best practices that could provide mutual benefit and serve as the venue for sharing information, policy matters, and issues across the global retail association community.

To date, 39 FIRA member associations represent 23 countries on five continents. This is also the venue for networking among members as the association expands its membership. The members are given opportunities to promote and invite members to their respective events.

The PRA joined FIRA in 2015. We took the opportunity to also promote the Philippines’ hosting of the Asia Pacific Retailers Convention and Exhibition (APRCE) in October that year. Since then, the PRA has gained wider international contacts and exposure in the global retailing community. This exposure has helped us connect to the world-class retail experts and speakers whom we were able to bring and invite to the PRA’s annual National Retail Conference and Exposition (NRCE) held every August to share their best practices and the latest retail trends and innovations.

FIRA grew over time as they conduct annual meetings every January in New York City alongside the National Retail Federation Retail Week. On Jan. 9 to 16, NRF Retail Week launched a robust calendar showcasing seven days of partner events, networking, innovative store tours, exhibits, workshops, educational sessions, and more.

This year, I am privileged to attend the NRF Retail Week with members together with industry experts who presented different topics relevant to today’s world retail environment.

The NRF’s annual convention and expo was billed “NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show,” which ran from Jan.11-14 at the NYC’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. I will share more about this groundbreaking exhibit on my next issue.

For the past three years, Tusk Ventures managing director Seth Webb talked about the NRF Innovation Lab, an annual showcase of the latest development in retail’s tech transformation. The lab includes over 50 visionaries from around the globe, the latest advances in retail technology including artificial intelligence, augmented reality, machine learning, facial recognition, robotics, and more.

The next speaker was Gwen Morrison, CEO of The Americas, The Store-WPP Global Retail Practice. She talked about the 20 commerce trends for 2020. At The Store, Morrison is responsible for extending WPP’s leadership in the future of commerce and providing value added through client and industry initiatives. She supports global resources around emerging technologies, particularly voice and visual search that are changing shopping rituals and blurring the lines between content and commerce. Some of the highlights for 2020 are inventory, store experience, audio check out, personalization, returns, logistics and delivery, sustainability, among others.

While Dominique Lamb, CEO of the National Retail Association (NRA) and director of NRA Legal, shared her extensive experience in providing industrial relations and employment law advice to a range of small medium and large businesses across a range of industries. She also talked about the top three issues facing the retail industry worldwide.

Most of the topics delved into are the issues sent by each country member. One of the issues raised is the lack of qualified labor within retail. The challenge is mainly on the qualification of a specialist in marketing, digitization, and information and technology. To address it, Germany shared their best practices on how they establish a sustainable system for qualified employees in the e-commerce industry. They developed the first digital apprenticeship program called e-Commerce “Kaufleute” (merchants), which offers young people to gain all the skills needed to become an online merchant without studying in the university that will bridge the digital skills gap.

The gathering of the minds of different retail practitioners, industry professionals and executives is worth the while of every participant to tackle, learn, share, and collaborate with the concerns and issues of the diffuse and diverse retail industry.

Above all, the retail world would be busy to address the shifting consumer preferences by pursuing innovation and offering faster and more seamless customer service.

Indeed, attending various conferences allows us retailers to explore what’s the next big thing in the retail landscape.