The Retail Forum, organised by The Marketing Society, will take place this year against a background of feverish takeover activity and an ever-changing UK high street.
Quite appropriate, then, that the event - being held at London's Dorchester Hotel on October 14 - is sub-titled 'Eat it, live it, wear it, drive it ... faster'. Its theme is how retailers can cope with demanding customers by getting appropriate products to them more quickly.
"Faster is the operative word," explains Tim Mason, marketing director for Tesco, and chair of the Retail Forum. "We'll be asking our speakers to demonstrate whether they believe the world is changing faster; whether customers are changing faster; and whether they are segmenting faster."
In recent years UK retailers, regardless of sector, have watched with a combination of awe and concern as a wave of foreign clothes retailers have flourished on the high street due to previously unheard-of product turnaround times. Some of these brands took such concepts from the 'just-in-time' methods of the motor industry.
Spanish fashion chain Zara's 15-day turnaround, from garment design to the shop floor, has challenged convention, forcing Top Shop to cut lead times from an average of nine weeks to six. "The modern retailer has to be much more flexible," says Mason. "We will need slicker supply chains, greater speed to market and different formats."
The Forum will look at shopping patterns with speakers identifying a polarisation in demand between shoppers travelling to exciting retail destinations and the requirement for online shopping and home delivery.
"These factors require retailers to embrace change management, which is a process issue and a cultural issue," says Mason.
The Retail Forum has taken on a global dimension as brands look to expand their franchises abroad. Pat O'Driscoll, Jeremy Nicholds and Ian Cheshire will give a perspective beyond the UK high street.
For details of the forum, call Claire Wallace at The Marketing Society on 020 8973 1700 or go to www.marketing-society.org.uk
Ian Cheshire Chief executive, Kingfisher International
Pat O'Driscoll Retail vice-president, Shell Europe
David Brimson Marketing director, Lexus (GB)
Jeremy Nicholds Senior vice-president, MasterCard Europe
Marcos Lopez Director, capital markets, Inditex (Zara)
Stephen Sunnucks Chief executive, New Look
Sara Weller Deputy managing director, Sainsburys
Catherine Shuttleworth Managing director, Marketing Store
Luke Mayhew Managing director, John Lewis
Alison Richards Managing director, The Pier
Ann Gordon Trading director, House of Fraser
Allan Leighton Chairman, Bhs
This article was first published on Marketing