Innovation and the future of retail

4 questions for NRF 2021 – Chapter 1 speaker Kate Ancketill

Kate Ancketill is CEO and chief storyteller at GDR Creative Intelligence, a London-based retail trend and strategy consultancy whose clients include Microsoft, Coca-Cola, P&G, Hilton, LVMH, Capitol One, Macy’s, Tesco and LEGO. She fuses big-picture context with carefully curated case studies from the world’s leading designers, technologists, marketeers, architects and thought leaders to illustrate how new technologies and consumer behaviors will impact physical and digital commerce.

Ancketill will appear at NRF 2021: Retail’s Big Show – Chapter 1, speaking about retail’s hard reset. Ahead of the virtual event, she spoke with NRF about U.S. retail in a post-COVID world.

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Kate Ancketill headshot
Kate Ancketill,
CEO and Chief Storyteller,
GDR Creative Intelligence

What do you do, exactly?

We help our clients envision the future, both for their industries — retail and hospitality — and for their brands. We look at global innovation at all consumer touchpoints and across all categories, including areas remote from the client’s core market. Innovation almost always starts with cross-fertilization. Looking outside your sector and geography is far more likely to lead to disruptive breakthroughs than chasing your competitors.

Has the advice you give your clients changed in the crazy year of 2020?

Not fundamentally, but it’s become more urgent. Logistics is a big issue because of the massive growth in ecommerce, and there’s also a rush to business-to-consumer, not just from the stock-up brands that were already aimed purely at the consumer, but also the pre-existing legacy businesses.

You see the Heinzes and the Pepsis rushing to B2C in ways that won’t significantly damage their relationship with the grocery stores. This has opened up massive opportunities for innovation; if you can’t just replicate what’s in the stores, you have to come up with something new.

What current issues do you see as particularly relevant to retailers in the United States?

I think that the U.S., much more so than Europe, is over-shopped, which means they have further to fall, as it were, in terms of deleveraging the retail portfolio. I think there will be a rightsizing both the number of stores and their size.

What prospects do you see for retail in the post-COVID world?

I think it’s a time for optimism. It’s also a time for getting things right based on the science, not on your gut or your emotions or what you wish to be the case.

There will be a future for retail that is better than what we had in the past — which is good, because a lot of what we had in the past was dull, boring, cookie-cutter, poor in service, poor in differentiation, and it deserved to go, frankly.

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