Where An Oil-Driven Past Gives Way to a Consumer-Driven Future

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Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2/19-2/20

No, it’s not about golf. Yes, there’s that. More importantly, it’s where you should plan to be next February. It’s the 10th Anniversary of the Retail Leaders Circle, themed around “Fearless Innovation.” RLC points to the huge opportunity for global and regional retailers, brands, and related industries to gather together for top-level exchanges of transformational ideas to advance the strategic and structural changes necessary to align with the future of retail leadership, operations and strategy and the significant changes in consumer behavior around the world.
Why Riyadh? Not so coincidentally, RLC and its Founder and Chairman, Panos Linardos realized that Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” program, set forth in 2016 to reduce their oil-dependent GDP for a more vibrant consumer-driven economy, represents a fundamental transformation among their many industries. When you consider the fact that two-thirds of the nation’s 35 million population is under the age of 35, the Kingdom has to prepare for jobs, growth and its GDP to emanate from product and service industries that are not oil related.  Enter RLC and retail.

An Emerging Market

Why Riyadh? Not so coincidentally, RLC and its Founder and Chairman, Panos Linardos, realize that Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” program, set forth in 2016, to reduce their oil-dependent GDP for a more vibrant consumer-driven economy, represents a fundamental transformation among their many industries. When you consider the fact that two-thirds of the nation’s 35 million population is under the age of 35, the Kingdom has to prepare for jobs, growth and its GDP to emanate from product and service industries that are not oil related.  Enter RLC and retail.

In Concert with Global Retail Leaders

As the retail world continuously evolves, casting a spotlight on global epicenters, RLC stands as an international convening that serves as a hub for leading retail industry innovators and visionaries from across the continents. RLC  acknowledges Saudi Arabia’s retail milestones recognizing the Kingdom as a fast-developing force in the global retail landscape. This is a relevant backdrop for the need for an informed and sustained global gathering that enables official and non-official initiatives, partnerships, and ideas to build a better global retail and related industries through collaboration and partnership. This is a really big deal. It may signal an accelerated push by the Saudis to join the retail world writ large. The world is shrinking.  So, opportunities to learn from other countries, synergistic collaborations, investment deals, real-estate mega projects and entities, tech-world leaders, and general networking are all part of the two-day agenda, informed by what retail leaders have asked for. Granted, the Saudis have their work cut out for them to make a dent in their commitment to “Vision 2030.” And I have to believe there is an enormous opportunity for American brands and retailers to become an effectual part of their goals. Thus, many of the Saudi leaders will also be in attendance including high-level policymakers/government leaders and the CEOS of all the leading regional retail conglomerates (Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar, etc.) to connect with international retail peers.

Fearless Innovation

The need to become aggressively proactive, rather than reactive to change is imperative and will be the underlying spirit of the two-day gathering. Innovation is the operative term and screams for the need for radical thinkers and doers to drive fundamental, as opposed to incremental, change. Plus, there is no time for pause. Indeed, “Fearless Innovation” is where the rubber hits the road. Urgency and speed will be a core message throughout the six sessions planned for the two-day gathering of an expected 3000-plus retail and brand leaders and contiguous industries, from 750 companies around the world. There will be over 100 speakers and 40+ countries included in keynote addresses, expert panels, taskforce roundtables, and strategic exhibitions — among other CEO-level activities. Linardos’s vision, as evidenced by his past gatherings, is not in pursuit of another conference or summit series in search of a pot of gold, which the world does not need. RLC is an invitation-only community, similar to a private club for Retail CEO members.

RLC’s Six Global Mandates

  • The New Growth Agenda
In this period of unprecedented, relentless change and global uncertainty, traditional growth strategies are being upended. The New Growth Agenda ignites discussions on bold and innovative strategies necessary to fuel retail’s continuous growth. Successful industry leaders will have to redefine their growth strategies to anticipate unpredictable challenges and market disruptions.
  • AI And Tech: Powering Progress
AI is beginning to shake the industry to the point of FOMO (fear of missing out). And technology in general continues to shake the foundations of what were conventional practices, all signaling to a groundbreaking era of business transformation. Technologies including generative AI, machine learning, blockchain, and IoT, are emerging as the industry’s new tools for unparalleled innovation.
  • Lifestyle Destinations
As the industry enters a new era, traditional retail spaces will have to transform into multi-purpose lifestyle destinations combining shopping, leisure, entertainment, and cultural elements, creating integrated, fulfilling experiences for everyone. The creation of vibrant, hubs in which more personalized environments will also be required. No longer will product and price be success factors; experience will be prioritized. And guess what? These new approaches will also increase the real estate value.
  • Leadership in the New Normal
This tech-infused era and the awesome requirements of consumers to be satisfied beyond their expectations will require leadership at a higher level. New normal leaders will have to be more agile, innovative and empathetic. While they may still be more comfortable with products and services, they will need to level up their understanding of ecommerce, AI, and tech in general.
  • Purpose Profit and Conscious Consumerism
Successful retailers will need to understand and practice DEI and community involvement, as well as sustainable goals. Circularity, repurposing, recycling, transformative shifts in the supply chain, and authentic environmental policies are table stakes demanded by today’s consumers.  Responsible retail is operating with a purpose and ethical business practices. Conscious consumerism integrates values with profitability – and that is how retailers will do well by doing good. These are not platitudes; they are fundamental shifts in the role and responsibility of retailers to their customers and communities.
  • Future Disruption Catalysts
An enormous number of disrupters have charted the course of this retail renaissance. And there will be an equally large number impacting the future. Savvy retailers will be prepared for a disruptive future, anticipating change, not catching up to it. RLC identifies some of the new disruptions that will shape the future of the industry. Indeed, a metaphor for Riyadh as “where an oil-driven past gives way to a consumer-driven future” is apt. But it’s not a metaphor. The reality of “Fearless Innovation” and RLC’s convening of thought leaders from around the world is the integration of some of the best minds in retail and related industries. These innovators will tell you how it is and how it is going to be. And at the end of an immersive two-day experience, you will say, “That was fresh and powerful. I learned a lot.” That’s the best endorsement any top-level experience can hope for.

Riyadh, February 19-20, 2024

Apply for an invitation into the RLC community to ensure you’re one step ahead of one of the most influential emerging markets. The gathering is an effective and efficient way to stay on top of the trends and ahead of the curve for retail around the world. Note: Retail Leaders Circle is a Robin Report Collaborative Partner

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