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Speaking: International Association of Department Stores, in Amsterdam

I was pleased to be invited, along with Frederik Nieuwenhuys of, to give the keynote at the IADS meeting in Amsterdam on Thursday, looking at the future for department stores online. We received a warm and open welcome at the de Bijenkorf flagship store for two days.

My pleasure turned quickly to a feeling of privilege, however, during two days of open, candid, revealing and utterly stimulating presentations and discussions.

I’m unable to recount details or attendees, but I can say that the leading stores in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Mexico, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Chile were represented.

A further highlight was the informal discussion time in the evenings, where I found in particular the directorate of IADS to be in possession of a mine of information, challenging ideas and an archival historic view on the sector… We’ll be hearing more of this in future issues of InternetRetailing!

My (publishable) take-aways from the meeting were:

  • a focus on the customer and customer expectations, rather than technology
  • concentration on ROI, and investing in business process and ‘cross-channel’ as much as in ‘building the web store’
  • a tension between comprehensiveness and focus when it comes to online range – along with a view that there’s no single, simple answer
  • a focus on growth (surprising in this economic climate) – geographically, in terms of range and scale of operations.

I’ve lost count of the number of conferences I’ve sat through, but I can’t remember the last time that I sat through two days without a single weak presentation, scribbling notes and ideas all the while and having my preconceptions challenged to regularly.

In my view this emphasises the benefit of smaller, peer meeting that allow for candour. I’d certainly be pleased to attend any further events by IADS based on this exemplary conference, and will reflect on the format for upcoming InternetRetailing events. A well-spent couple of days.