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Overview: 2019 Retail Council of Canada Marketing Conference

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Photo: RCCPhoto: RCC

Photo: RCC

By Huzefa Kantawala

Retail Council of Canada hosts numerous events throughout the year, and this year’s Retail Marketing Conference was of particular interest. The gathering took place on April 18, 2019, just before the Easter Long Weekend.


RCC’s Michael LeBlanc speaks with Trinh Tham of Sobeys. Photo: RCCRCC’s Michael LeBlanc speaks with Trinh Tham of Sobeys. Photo: RCC

RCC’s Michael LeBlanc speaks with Trinh Tham of Sobeys. Photo: RCC

The event started with a breakfast meeting, leading into the first presentation from Laura Macdonald of Ikea, which was a wonderful presentation that gave a great start to the event. It covered all the points of Ikea’s $2.5 billion business here in Canada and the marketing for the same. After a very insightful deep dive in Ikea strategy, Andrew Armstrong of Omnovos lead us into the first of many presentation where “data”, “consumer” and “loyalty” were the key words. 

The odd yet interesting ones out in this retail meet were the “Experience Specialist” namely Rochelle Ezekiel of Holt Renfrew and Samantha Yarwood of Shift Toronto, who made their presentation on the experience knowledge and customer relationship management ideas and initiatives. They made valid points that are overlooked by brands and companies here, which is “customer experience” and “clientelling”. 

Major presentations took place throughout the day.  Here, several panelists discussed key topics on consumer loyalty (aka loyalty cards), building of multi brands future and dependence on digital and social media platforms for retail marketing. 


DELTA HOTELS AT 75 LOWER SIMCOE STREET IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO. PHOTO: DELTA HOTELDELTA HOTELS AT 75 LOWER SIMCOE STREET IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO. PHOTO: DELTA HOTEL

DELTA HOTELS AT 75 LOWER SIMCOE STREET IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO. PHOTO: DELTA HOTEL

A very impressive note on sustainability in retail was discussed by Ikea first which was followed by grocery giants such as Sobeys and retailers such as Golf Towns. After a lunch break, the session on Social Media Influencers discussed how such influencers are now part of Retail Marketing, including their impact on customers. Networking breaks were filled in every hour and half, which proved beneficial to meet the who’s who of retail marketing in Canada. 

Takeaways from this meet predominately are, how to manage the “disruptive” retail market and how to reach the customer with their “consent”. It also gave us an insight on what does their loyalty means and how can we get it be beneficial for both. The age-old dilemma was still the Battle of Brick & Mortar Consumer to Digital Consumer is it the same or is there a demographic difference with them.

One line which encompasses and its biggest summary of this meet is “Be the Customer of Your own Business” – Think that if you were the customer of the business or brand, what would you want to be better, how would you want to contacted, convinced and wowed.


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Huzefa kantawala, based in Toronto has over 10 years experience in Luxury retail, training & communications  . Having worked for brand like DSquared2, Hackett London and Montblanc to name a few, he has created a niche for himself in training, coaching and art of customer experience. Written for couple of fashion blogs and taught in top luxury & Fashion schools he now is a contributing writer to retail and luxury industry in Canada. email : huzefakantawala@gmail.com.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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