Retail Survival: Why Retail Needs Talent More Than Ever

Written by
Richard Sharp

Catherine Roggero-Lovisi, former President, Revlon North America

Last week, SimpliField was honored to host a true luxury and cosmetics industry icon – Catherine Roggero-Lovisi, former President, North America at Revlon – for a candid conversation with our CEO, Ben Zenou.

In the midst of a global pandemic and massive global protests on racial injustice, and at a time of record unemployment, with a retail industry in the midst of countless bankruptcies, we discussed the survival of retail, and what it will take to make things better.

Find out the 6 highlights of our webinar on retail survival with Catherine Roggero-Lovisi below and watch the entire webinar here.


1. Global Racial Injustice and U.S. Protests Are A Human Rights Question

"I've been in the U.S. for 20 years and an American citizen for 15 years, and I've seen this pain and rage pouring in the street many times too often. Lyndon Johnson said to Congress after Selma in Alabama, that it was not an issue of state rights or national rights - it was only the struggle for human rights. He was talking about voting, but today we're talking about fair treatment and equality, and to me it's a bit similar."

"We need to move at some point from an emotional stage to action and change. The problems that are systemic are our responsibility and we are accountable for it, both as leaders in companies and organizations and as individuals, citizens and consumers. So concretely, we have to make sure that when we see B.S., we call it out. Then we need to take action the way America understands it, which is with our wallets. We also have to take action in November and help people to register if they're not and vote. We need to take action in a very concrete way because we can't continue to have those types of things happening."

2. The Pandemic Caused Unprecedented and Rapid Acceleration of Change

"COVID has not been a creator of the trend. It's been accelerating things that were either already happening and people were dealing with it, or people were ignoring it. We've seen it obviously in the healthcare system in the U.S. and we've seen in education, where finally education can be done remotely and hopefully cheaper."

"We are six months into 2020 and it feels like 64 months. We are exhausted, but it has accelerated a lot of things. We can't have wishful thinking anymore. There is no magic hand coming from wherever to help us. We need to take action."

3. Major Shifts In Consumer Buying Patterns Require Radically Rethinking Retail Offerings

"Potentially 40 million people in the U.S. have been unemployed. The household debt, the loss of income, all those things are going to impact purchasing because people either don't have the money they used to have, or they're afraid that they will not have it. I think that collectively, all of us will think of our consumption a little bit differently, either because of the reflection we’ve been doing over the last 3 months, or because of economic hardship."

"So we are going to have to brace for the fact that consumption is going to go down, and rather than say, I don't have the money, people are going to look at brands and say, is it really worth it? Is it an expression of what I stand for? And if you're not, they are not going to buy it. A lot of consumers have realized that that's what we're doing to the planet is crazy because we are over-consuming."

"As a company, it goes from supply chain to water consumption and C02 emissions. It goes to the material that is being used, the formula you're putting in. I also believe that a company that is going to be remembered is a company that is not going to push you to buy one more item, but that is going to push you to buy a better item. Less is going to be more."

4. Cosmetics’s Retail Survival Depends On Offering Meaningful Brand and Products to Consumers

"Yesterday's formula is not going to work. We need to do more design thinking - basically go back to the drawing board and ask the right questions, review the customers and what they really need and what they really want and then observe what they do, because sometimes there is cognitive dissonance between what is happening and what they say is happening."

"We need to move beyond just ingredients or the magic formula or whatever, and towards meaning, more than ever. People are looking into company cultures, what they're projecting, what they stand for, and what the meaning of their purchase is."

"Now is the perfect time for strategic renewal. It's not going to be perfect, it may need to be fine-tuned - but it's the moment to do it."

5. The Survival of Retail Needs Reinvestment in Employee Empowerment and Upskilling

"Tell me how you treat your talent, and I will know how you treat your consumer. The first population we need to take care of and empower, which has not been the case for a long time, is our internal population. And I think that, again, the last three months, all the playbooks are in the trashcan. We need to rewrite them all. The taboos are gone. It's about killing the things that are killing people, because they're annoying, and use this time to focus on things that do matter."

"I think in recruitment, it will have an impact because of the ability to work from home versus having to show up every day. No matter what, it's going to be different. It’s also going to give flexibility in terms of seeking talent."

"Going back to the field and to the teams that are in the trenches to write the future is extremely important. If you have somebody on your team, it means that you trust them to make a decision and to represent your company or your brand. And it also means that they have the intellectual capacity to do it and the training to do it. Keep the decision-making at the lowest level possible, so it's faster and quicker, obviously bring the communication up so people can learn from it and signal if there is a potential issue."

"I think this is the good time to say: guys, we pause as much as we can. And we reinvest. And we show you KPIs on reinvestment in terms of talent. It's about what we are going to do for our customers. And I think that talent needs to be engaged, involved and accountable on that as well."

6. Real Listening and Humility Are Essential to Bring Change

"Because of my personality, I've got a lot of advice from a lot of people, but the number one was just to shut up and listen. We all - in times of stress and crisis - go back to what we know, and it's very difficult for us to imagine anything else. We don't have the solution and we are looking for help to get it. But when it comes, we don’t listen most of the time, because we have a checklist of all the things that make it impossible."

"Now is the time to be a little bit more humble, and to listen, and take it in and work on rewriting things because what we've left in March is not that great in the first place, and we don’t have much to lose."

The Takeaway

  • The protests around the globe are about human rights, and it is incumbent on companies and individuals to take concrete action as individuals, citizens and consumers.
  • The massive problems we are dealing with now – both in society and in the retail industry – are not new and not caused by COVID, but the pandemic has massively accelerated the need for meaningful change.
  • Consumers are likely to reduce consumption, focus more on sustainability, and look more for products that bring longer-lasting meaning and value. If this isn’t reflected in the offering, it will reduce a retailer’s chances of succeeding in the race for retail survival.
  • For the survival of retail, the old playbooks for managing talent should be thrown out and replaced with strategies that embrace empowerment, communication and decision-making from the ground up. Those companies that master this will have a strong competitive advantage, especially in cosmetics and luxury retail.
  • Now is the time for the retail industry to pause, listen, reinvest and rewrite the future. The survival of retail depends on this ability to rethink business to be most relevant today and to the post-COVID world.

To watch the full webinar, click here.

Find out more about the future trends in beauty and cosmetics in our special report here.

If you also want to provide excellent customer service by building connections with your team, providing clear and transparent leadership, and rebuilding your communications to get real-time feedback from the ground up, then contact SimpliField today.



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