16 November 2020
Author: The Future Laboratory
It isn’t something we’ve quickly thought about during lockdown and brought into being, it’s something we’ve been doing for 10 years now, looking at sustainability, the future and how we can use the Selfridges platform to explore and innovate in the retail space. Project Earth is about looking at materials, models and mindsets and how we use those three things to experiment. Which is exactly what it is – it’s a live experiment that we are going to learn from to see how our customer engages and how people respond, and then it’s going to shape our business. We’re in the process of working on and evolving the Selfridges Group vision, purpose and values. We believe this is the only way to approach retail moving forwards: what we’re interested in are societal boundaries, environmental boundaries and commercial opportunities, and how we look at these three aspects to drive us forward. It’s a very exciting time even though it feels daunting. I do however think we can reinvent.
Chris: Where do you think that takes the creative direction and the brand?
Linda: The challenges, of course, are going to be on the commercial side. At the moment we’ve got all sorts of obstacles. We’re missing the international customer at the moment, there are all the uncertainties about Brexit and issues around tax-free shopping. So now we’ve got to really focus on the domestic customer. This means looking at the whole product mix and strategy, potentially introducing new categories, and looking at the balance between own-bought and concession. We also need to consider how the shape of the stores needs to respond as a result of all of that changing.
I think we’re going to need to be much more flexible and quicker in how we do things. It’s likely that the strategy is going to be much more biased towards independent and sustainable brands, and this is hugely exciting. What comes with that is great creativity. This isn’t something you can do overnight. We have a significant target of wanting all our products to be from sustainable sources by 2025, which is huge and it’s going to take time to introduce this shift but I think we can do it – and it’s all about the customer really, isn’t it?
Chris: Well, that has to be the guiding principle, doesn’t it? Any burning question for me
Linda: Well, my burning question is probably one you’ve predicted, which is will department stores still exist in 20 years’ time, or even in 10 years’ time. And if so, how will they be different?
Chris: Oh, that is a really, really good question...