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Retail innovation isn’t easy

Innovation is not easy – but without it, your brand will die.

That was a key takeout from an industry seminar in Causeway Bay on Wednesday, held to mark the launch of Inside Retail’s inaugural Top 50 Innovative Retail Leaders in Hong Kong publication. Focused on retail innovation, the seminar was followed by a cocktail function.


Keynote speaker Desmond Marshall, one of the Top 50 named leaders for his role as chairman of jeweller Fang Fang Monte Carlo, said a major challenge for retail leaders wanting to innovate was bringing staff on board.

Desmond Marshall

“Many staff are worried about failing, knowing if they fail they get kicked in the butt and may lose their jobs,” he said.

Alexis Wong, founder of Vesta Holding, who was on the judging panel backed up Marshall’s comment later during a panel discussion. “People must not be afraid to change.”

Inside Retail Asia Top 50 Innovative Retal Leaders in Hong Kong 2017 launch event

Inside Retail director of content Robert Stockdill said leaders wanting to be truly innovative had to inspire people on many levels.

“You have to inspire staff. You have to inspire customers. And sometimes you have to inspire shareholders.”

He said that was one of the reasons it was often easier for small businesses to innovate than for larger businesses – they were more nimble, freer to respond quickly to changes and lacked the handicap of complex reporting structures.

Inside Retail Asia Top 50 Innovative Retal Leaders in Hong Kong 2017 launch event 2

“Small is powerful,” asserted Jennifer Liu, founder of The Coffee Academics, another who was listed in the Top 50.

While her company’s core business was serving food and beverages, the company had to be expert in handling social media and digital channels to connect with customers.

Carson McKelvey, partner in Top 50 sponsor Tofugear, listed a number of major technological advances across many industries, including the hyperloop, rocket technology being developed for fast intercontinental travel, and AI advances, before asking the audience ‘What do all these technological advances have in common?’

“They did not exist before 2016,” he answered. “In retail we have probably seen more change in the last five years than in the 50 years before then. The pace of change is faster than ever.”

Oliver Ranck, CEO of Inside Retail parent Octomedia, welcomed delegates with a reminder that brands did not innovate, people do.

Inside Retail Asia Top 50 Innovative Retal Leaders in Hong Kong 2017 launch event - Oliver

“A brand is nothing without the people behind it. That’s why we launched the Top 50 Innovative Retail Leaders in Hong Kong – to recognise the people behind the brands who are making innovation happen.”

The publication, sponsored by Greater Group, Tofugear, SAP Hybris, KPMG, PolyU Design and Vesta Holding, is available for digital download, or can be purchased in print here.

View our image gallery on Facebook for photos from the event.

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