The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

New Power Brands And Places


I attended and presented at The Retail Summit’s inaugural event in Dubai last week. The UAE, where 62% of global retailers have a presence, has overtaken London as the world’s most international shopping destination. If you haven’t visited, it’s a brand wonderland!

I love being in a new geography and hearing from industry trendsetters. Here are my takeaways, inspirations and favorite stories.

  • Markets and new categories are being developed
  • Momentum is shifting to new economies
  • Mature brands are remaking themselves

Innovation Generation

Two sisters with a passion for beauty products have built Huda Beauty into a $1B brand in 5 years by developing a massive online following. “We are lucky to be born in the age of social media and our 33 million followers are important to the brand’s DNA.”

Twin brothers Ryan and Adam, Co-founders of Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL) said, “No one can just enter the industry with a good-looking product alone. If you are trying to create a new category in a given industry, it needs to be something that’s new and special. We have integrated luxury and performance and created our category.”

Klasha, an online retail start-up sells affordable fashion with fast delivery to 7 countries in Africa and offers easy payment options in local African currencies for women aged 18-28. The millennial founder and team are their own focus group. Klasha aims to provide timely fulfillment (1-5 days versus current average of up to 20 days) to Tier 1 / 2 cities as well as rural customers, delivering next-level service and transforming the marketplace.

World Marketplace

More than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa, and currently 50% of the continent’s population is under 30 years of age. Africa’s online market could be worth as much as $300bn by 2025. Mall for Africa, an on-line marketplace, is capitalizing on this emerging market by offering products from over 250+ UK and US retailers for sale in 17 countries on the continent. Founder Chris Folayan’s family and friends kept asking him to bring American products for them when he traveled home to Nigeria, and he was inspired to start an online marketplace where Africans could purchase favorite products from foreign brands and retailers.

Chinese consumers welcomed the Year of the Pig by spending 1 trillion yuan ($148.3 billion) during the Lunar New Year holiday. China set to overtake the US as the world’s largest fashion market in 2019. Dubai’s malls and Duty Free shops were filled with special offers, promotions and displays aimed visitors / overseas Chinese who celebrate by spending on gifts and celebrations.

The NRF is expecting retail spending to grow by 3.8 percent to 4.4 percent 2019, compared to 4.6 growth in 2018. Cooling economic conditions in the US and Europe make emerging markets more interesting growth vehicles, especially given growing consumer demand advances in payments, logistics and mobile technology.

Passion and Perseverance

Jo Loves is the new fragrance brand that Jo Malone started in 2011 after selling her namesake company to Estee Lauder in 1999. Passion, resilience and creativity are her mantra, and she strives to be relevant, as she told the audience, “You can’t depend on heritage.”

Hunkemoller, the 133-year-old Dutch lingerie company, have embraced influencer marketing, and estimate that s-commerce now drives 7-10% of the company’s sales. They’ve learned that a ‘Glocal” approach of identifying influencers by geography drives the most impactful results.

For over 60 years Lego has kept children happy and busy. They’ve recommitted to innovation in order to stay relevant. Near my home in San Diego, Legoland California opened a new themed hotel and attractions that has increased visits. Lego established an online community of nearly one million members to share and crowd-source new product ideas. And recently their engineers built a life-size, drivable Bugatti Chiron using standard building blocks. “The reason behind this is commitment and innovation. People would naturally expect innovation from a toy company, but it is not just about products, it is about experience, mindsets and cultures in the company which helps it to survive and thrive.”

#FunFact: using just 6 LEGO Bricks one can construct 915,103,765 possible structures


It’s tough to condense two days of great insights, but my big takeaway is that there is not a shortage of growth opportunities ready to be developed. New categories and market gaps are abundant, and new players and icons alike are being inspired to create relevant offers and experiences that fulfill demand. It’s good to get out of your space – inspiration is found in ones own neighborhood as well as a world away.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

Editor Note:

Patricia Vekich Waldron is Founder and CEO of Vision First, a consultancy that helps companies stand out in a crowded market where many are vying for visibility. She has held executive positions responsible for marketing, product and business development at global corporations including IBM Corporation, Cognos, Lawson Software, Fujitsu and The Pillsbury Company. Patricia has spoken at global industry events, including World Retail Congress, Consumer Goods Forum, Retail Leaders Forum and the National Retail Federation (NRF).


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Articles & Opinions February 26, 2019
  • Guest Contributors Patricia Vekich Waldron
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