Retail Innovation: Must-Attend Executive Development Program, Spring 2018

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By Mario Toneguzzi

A new program at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax is designed to provide leaders with the skills, tools and insights to stay ahead of the curve in the rapidly, ever-changing retail landscape.

Instead of wondering what the future has in store, the program helps leaders proactively shape that future.

Dr. Ramesh Venkat is the director of the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services and an Associate Professor of Marketing with the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary's University. In an interview, Dr. Venkat said the Retail Innovation, Strategy & Excellence program (RISE) is a response to the disruption happening in the retail environment. This disruption is driven by new technologies and business models, demographics, globalization, new ways of competing and new ways of taking product to market.

He said retailers who are not able to respond to these disruptive forces are struggling. “Historically, retailers have been slow to react but that is changing,” said Venkat. “Retailers have to adapt and respond.”

“The program’s purpose is to have retailers prepare for this future - to help them become more creative and innovative so they can compete in this unprecedented environment.”

The RISE program will take place April 8 - 13. Participants will tap into current ideas presented by retail thought leaders and subject matter experts. People can register here: http://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey-executive-education-program-register.html or learn more here: http://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey/retail-innovation-program/who-should-attend.html

Venkat said the changing retail environment impacts all retailers no matter their size or what they’re selling. But for larger retailers, these changes are on a different scale.

“We take that into account. RISE is geared slightly towards medium to larger retailers, but it doesn’t preclude the participation of smaller companies,” he said.

“We expect participants will have some responsibility for innovation and change. It will be people who are focused on technology, focused on the customer experience, or on improving retail operations. There is opportunity for innovation within these areas. Anyone with the mandate or need to innovate and improve their business is a potential participant.”

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Venkat said the program is unique -- it doesn’t focus on day-to-day retail operations. It focuses on the big picture and strategic issues.

“It gets companies to think about the future . . . it’s an opportunity for executives to think about how they are going to prepare their organizations to compete effectively,” he said. “That’s what sets this program apart from other programs which tend to be more operationally-focused.”

The RISE program description says participants will gain knowledge, attitude and skills in a range of areas, which will enable them to plan for excellence in retail execution:

1.     Understand the disruptive forces impacting the retail sector

2.     Gain new perspectives into retail business models and innovation, and think about strategy through the lens of innovation

3.     Demonstrate how to use data analytics to make evidence-based decisions, and improve retail operations and business performance

4.     Learn frameworks and tools to build a customer-centric retail brand that incorporates digital strategies

5.     Analyze strategic and operational retail challenges and formulate appropriate solutions

6.     Develop greater personal awareness of leadership and decision-making style, and improve ability to work in, and lead teams

7.     Identify and lead innovation and improvement opportunities

8.     Develop both personal and company action plans focused on an innovation opportunity, which you can continue after the program

To learn more about Retail Innovation, Strategy and Excellence, you can visit the David Sobey Centre’s website: http://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey/retail-innovation-program/retail-innovation-program.html or register here: http://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey-executive-education-program-register.html

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Mario Toneguzzi

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.