The VMSD staff was flying pretty high as we made our way out to San Francisco last week for our 11th International Retail Design Conference. Attendance numbers looked fantastic, the speakers were all good to go and – kind of miraculously – all the boxes that had been shipped to the venue had arrived, and safely. Even the weather was cooperating, with nothing but sunny skies and 70s temps on the horizon.
Then Chip Conley took the stage for the opening keynote on Wednesday morning. And wouldn’t you know it? Dude was the human equivalent of sunny skies and 70s temps.
Booking speakers is always a bit of a gamble, especially when the speaker isn’t squarely in your audience’s wheelhouse, but Chip – founder and ceo of the California boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre Hospitality – set the tone perfectly. First, he shared his fascinating approach to designing hotels (and yes, there were unique lessons for retail design in there). But the bulk of his presentation focused on how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can inform not only how you design for the customer, but how you can shape your own career in retail into something even better.
It was just the thing for this audience, hundreds of retailers and designers who were there in the first place because they believe in this industry and in playing a significant role in its future. As Chip explained how customers, and the retailers who court them, yearn to feel transformed by their experiences, I watched the room nod along, laugh, ask questions and line up to shake Chip’s hand when he was finished. I knew we were in for a good week.
And we were. There were a lot of inspiring speakers and surprising insights into retailers you don’t always get to hear from (thank you, Whole Foods, McDonald’s and Nordstrom!). The attendees, sponsors and speakers mingled and talked about retail challenges and triumphs all the livelong day, throughout the sessions, the lunches, the parties and around the bar. Yet everyone still seemed energized, right through Rob Forbes’ delightfully loose closing keynote on Friday.
You’ll find a nice, big wrap-up of the conference with notes on many of the sessions in the November issue of VMSD. We plan to have some event photos posted before then, too, here on vmsd.com and on irdconline.com, as well as on the VMSD and IRDC Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Keep an eye out, and go ahead and mark your calendar for next year: September 5-7, 2012, in Chicago.
Thank you to everyone who shared in IRDC’s success this year. You help us raise the bar year after year, as we all work to keep the momentum going and reach the peak.