Retail is the domain of international speaker Robert L. Grossman, who heads up the Strategy and Operations practice at Deloitte Consulting LLP in the United States. Grossman will be presenting a much-anticipated keynote address that examines retail property trends globally, and their implications for SA.
Grossman argues that the economic recession of recent years has fundamentally challenged the way that consumers behave - something he calls the 'consumer reset' - and that retailers will have to truly know their customers, and deliver a targeted value proposition, to be successful.
"Today's consumers demand a seamless experience regardless of the channel that they're shopping," he explains.
"Retailers need to leverage their online and mobile channels to offer consumers additional product and price transparency, and extending the customer experience beyond the bricks and mortar store."
He adds that the retail sector will continue to be impacted by the digital economy - think how the business models around music and bookstores have changed - which means that not only is the roster of retail tenants shifting, so too is the purpose of a store.
He points out that retailers need to offer an immersive customer experience in-store and not simply a purchasing outlet.
"Online retailing will likely affect SA retailers in ways similar to other developed countries," he says.
"The rapid pace at which consumer expectations are increasing, coupled with the explosion in online and social commerce, is prompting retailers to think about product categories in new ways."
Grossman's presentation will be followed by what is expected to be a lively panel discussion entitled Retail Therapy, with Finweek technology editor Simon Dingle.
Other international speakers include Guruduth Banavar, vice president and chief technology officer at IBM's Global Public Sector; and Henry Chamberlain, president and chief operating officer of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) in Washington, DC.
Frank Berkeley, managing executive of Nedbank Corporate Property Finance, says, "The theme of this year's event ... is particularly relevant to the South African property sector, which is approaching the final stages of the recession, although we at Nedbank don't expect a material recovery before 2012, and even then it will be slow. The expected increases in interest rates in 2012 and 2013 will further dampen recovery and we believe that there needs to be a sustained reduction in vacancies beforehand. Nevertheless property remains an essential part of every investment portfolio, and South African property has shown remarkable resilience."
For more information, visit: www.sapoaconvention.co.za.