Today’s retail challenge: reinventing the customer experience
Ian McGarrigle, the World Retail Congress chairman, says the e-commerce revolution remains the biggest force for transformation. Anna Nielsen for The National

Dubai will host the World Retail Congress (WRC) for the second time, with senior industry leaders from across the globe gathering at Madinat Jumeirah for speeches, debates and networking. Chairman Ian McGarrigle founded WRC in 2007. Involved with the sector for 30 years as a journalist, editor and publisher, the Briton realised there was no opportunity for retailers from around the world to meet under one roof. Mr McGarrigle says this year’s theme, Reimagining the Customer Experience, goes to the heart of today’s retail challenge and will feature the industry’s big names – from leading innovators to the disrupter companies and the new businesses. Dubai first hosted the event, which runs until Thursday, last year.

What was the thinking behind this year’s theme?

We knew from last year’s Congress that retailers understood they have to find new ways of attracting customers. Consumers have so many choices it is important to create experiences at every level of retail, from the store itself, customer service provided and the online experience.

It has grown to become one of the most important meetings for the global industry. Senior executives get the opportunity to hear from leading experts and fellow retailers, to learn about key trends and ideas that help move not only their businesses forward but the industry as a whole. With retailing transforming itself to serve today’s online consumers, having expert insight and guidance is essential. Our primary audience are senior retail leaders – those that head businesses or are directors on the main board.

How has the retail landscape altered globally since you founded the Congress?

Considerably. Some of the biggest drivers of change have been [since] the economic crisis of 2008 which forced consumers to reevaluate where and how they spend. Retailers, in turn, had to adjust businesses and, in many cases, exit markets or cut back store…