Respected retail strategist Danny Lattouf has left VMLY&R to join The General Store as partner and chief strategy officer.
Started by Matt Newell in 2012, The General Store is a specialist retail innovation agency that advises The Iconic, Freedom, Supercheap Auto and Marley Spoon, and recently signed Jaycar, Shoes & Sox, Burger Urge, Salvos Stores and Amber Tile.
Lattouf brings nearly 20 years’ retail experience to the role, having served as managing director of Ideaworks and regional head of retail in ANZ at VMLY&R for the last five years and head of retail marketing at Microsoft prior to that.
While at VMLY&R, he worked on several award-winning store design and experience projects, including Myer’s ‘Wonderland’ and Rebel’s ‘Accelerate’ concepts. He joins The General Store as the Sydney-based agency gains momentum.
“Danny’s got an infectious passion for retail and a unique ability to lead teams across multi-disciplinary projects,” said Newell, The General Store’s CEO, about the appointment.
“He’s exactly the kind of talent that future-focused retailers are looking for.”
With Lattouf onboard, The General Store has its sights set on major transformation projects, such as the ones that Kmart and Supercheap Auto recently have undergone.
“Retail is a tough market at the moment but there are some fantastic retailers out there stitching together really inspiring and holistic customer experiences and getting great results – like The Iconic, Supercheap Auto and Harris Farm,” Newell told Inside Retail.
Other retailers are responding to the challenges in commercially creative ways, by forming partnerships with unrelated brands, for instance, or delivering products and services that customers didn’t dream of, let alone need or want.
“The testing and trialing of such things is what is exciting for me personally,” Lattouf told Inside Retail, “beyond nice press statements, getting the right ones to land and stick will be where the true impact will be.”
Both Newell and Lattouf agree that a successful retail experience today is as much an art as it is a science, and customer research can only get you so far.
“We use research as a critical tool but too much of it can create circular processes that deliver very predictable outcomes,” Newell said.
“There comes a time where retail executives have to take a leap of faith and just innovate. That’s the art of retail.”
Lattouf added: “One thing I’d love to be discussed more is empathy. Beyond customer centricity, empathy isn’t just about getting out of the customer’s way and making things easy, it’s about true understanding – beyond research.
“When empathy is applied, we can start talking (and acting) more confidently when it comes to culture and creating some friction for our brands…we have to be careful not to get so customer centric that we disappear into a sea of other brands.”
Lattouf’s departure from VMLY&R, which was formed earlier this year through the merger of VML and Y&R, is just the latest in a string of high-profile exits from the agency, which is part of WPP AUNZ.