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Q&A: Katie Baron on what to watch out for in retail

Stylus’ head of Retail reveals what she’ll be discussing at next week’s Decoded Fashion and what, exactly, is the most exciting thing happening in retail right now.

The retail world is evolving at a frenetic pace, but here to make sense of it all is Katie Baron, Stylus’ head of Retail. She told us what she’s currently working on, what she’ll be talking about at Decoded Fashion next week and what, exactly, is the most exciting thing happening in retail right now.

What does your role at Stylus involve?

“It’s all about layering up what’s happening in the wider world – how people communicate with each other, how they’re absorbing media, how they actually consume products – and looking at how this can be translated into retail, whether through store design, an app or a website.

“I’m always looking at new technologies, social shifts and changing lifestyle patterns in order to get a grip on what will happen in the future. A big part of my job is to uncover things that haven’t yet been used in retail but could.”

Tell us a bit about your background…

“I started working at Habitat, in production, before moving to Liberty to work with Mary Portas, just as she was kicking off her TV career. It was an interesting time because it was going through an entire rebrand, and some of the things we ended up doing were quite unorthodox.

“I was always a writer at the same time, and I later ended up at Harper’s Bazaar, where I was an editor for three years. While there I was commissioned to write my first book, Stylists: New Fashion Visionaries, which was about stylists orchestrating pop culture in a much larger way. And from there I started working at Stylus.”

What are you working on at the moment?

“At Stylus we’re about to start working on a project called Liquid Retail, which will explore how much our worlds have changed in terms of 24-hour lives, being able to shop from anywhere and retail being an almost unconscious activity.

“We’re brainstorming at the moment, but we’ll be looking at things like physical spaces that exist to provide respite from a 24-hour world. I think we’re going to do something really unexpected around it.”

What does your typical day look like? 

“There’s generally going to be some editing involved, some brainstorming with my team and quite often some picture researching – but generally it’s a really mixed bag. Ahead of an event I’m speaking at I’ll spend a lot of time refining the big and small ideas and piecing them together into a 20 to 25-minute talk.”

Talking of events, you’re speaking at Decoded Fashion next week in London. What will you be covering?

“I’ll be talking about four different types of digital union, from Internal 360°: Super-Suiting Staff – which will essentially explain why you need to digitise your team as well as your store space; imagine putting a super suit on where you’re totally tooled up, technology wise – to Liquid Omni, where I’ll speak about the big shifts that will refresh omnichannel.

“Another topic I’ll explore is Transcendent Tech for Gen Acceleration, which will look at technologies that make customers feel smarter. When you begin to understand how these technologies fit into a consumer mentality – and not just a shopping mentality – that’s when it gets really exciting.”

What’s the single most exciting thing happening in retail right now? 

“Probably The Internet of Things, which I think is really going to force people to think about their brands in different ways. Products, for example, will be thought of as mobile brand systems – and I think this will bring out some really interesting creative ideas.”

Decoded Fashion’s London Summit is taking place on May 16-17. Join us to discover start-ups behind new and relevant solutions catering to fashion and retail, and network with industry leaders and tech founders from around the globe. Use promotional code STYLUSCURVE  for 25% off the ticket price – exclusive for Stylus Curve readers. Register now.