Paris Retail Week is partner of the NRFrench Party which will take place on January 15th at the French Consulate in New York, and as part of this operation, is pleased to participate in the exciting exchanges on retail innovations, at the beginning of 2017.

The floor is given to Catherine Barba, founder of the PEPS Lab, Retail Innovation Center in New York.

How would you describe the digital ecosystem in New York?

It is particularly dynamic. I come across a lot of start-ups, American or French, which are developing ground-breaking services or models for retail.

Would you say that people are more open to new ideas in the USA than in France?

A new idea is only transformed into a valuable creation if it is well executed. Innovation takes shape in action. Here, I see it every day, we’re in the country of “Do-ers”, of “Makers”, for whom “Nothing is a mistake, there is no win and no fail, there is only MAKE”. Americans have an extraordinary cultural predisposition to entrepreneurship and innovation. Theirs is a culture of action, of results, pragmatism, the acceptance of failure, confidence in oneself and in the future.

Everybody in a company must be able to clearly formulate how digital technology is transforming their value chain.

France is becoming a real “start-up factory”, and more and more young people have this wonderful entrepreneurial spirit. Thanks to the recent record raising of capital by our national success stories (200 million for Blablacar, 100 million for Sigfox, 33 million for Vestiaire Collective, 31 million for Prêt d’Union) or the fantastic acquisition of Leetchi by Crédit Mutuel Arkea, confidence in new ideas is growing.

Is the United States more conducive to innovations in the field of connected retail than France?

In terms of retail, as in any other field, the United States remains the champion of innovation. American dynamism in this area is based on strong cultural, financial and economic foundations which I realise even more acutely now I live here. There are two major differences with France which I find particularly striking. Firstly, the sheer amount of financing available for innovation from angel investors and venture capital: here, raising 20 million dollars for a start-up is nothing exceptional. The second concerns the fluidity of the interactions between all those involved in innovation. The academic world, the private and the public sector know each other well, speak the same language and work well together.

Are companies which don’t know how to evolve condemned to disappear?

In this digital era, all companies must reinvent themselves. This transformation can only really start when CEOs make digital their number one priority. Otherwise, they are not up to the job. They must be able to tackle this transformation head on, invest, make everyone understand that this involves an individual transformation for all employees, whether there are 3 or 50 000 of them. Everyone in the company must be able to clearly formulate how digital technology is transforming their value chain, their customers, their job and feel free to take initiatives to work differently, while keeping the customer in mind. Company leaders who have not yet properly grasped the magnitude of these changes and who are not putting things into action by taking radical decisions are, I fear, effectively digging their company’s grave.