Key Theme of the Conference

Fashion in the age of digital reproduction

The clothing industry has traditionally been an important part of the retail trade. Is there a fashion without taking into account digital reality? How does the metaverse world affect the fashion of the future? Designers' thoughts on the fashion of the new reality now concern the structure of the garment. The pragmatism of the time and the new digital reality turn the gaze towards a change in our relationship with the body. It is argued, in fact, that in the context of this change, which was accelerated by the Covid 19 pandemic, we feel the need to cover and not expose our skin to the environment. The new digital reality is changing, however, the way our senses have hitherto perceived fashion. How to choose an outfit if you can not touch the fabric? The answer lies in the new reality, which calls the gaze to acquire touch sensors. Because fashion is displayed on our screens. Does the look matter more than the touch? Do we get into a "visual touch" concept, through computers, and learn to wear clothes, following the way our avatar or a 3D hologram wears digital versions of clothes? Digital clothing is exempt from technical contracts or other restrictions (identity, gender, size, etc.). They are indestructible, durable, "eternal". But are they also boring? What are the digital platforms, technology tools and designers that offer digital fashion services? Does a collection of digital clothes have financial constraints? Where will we wear our digital wardrobe and for what occasion? The above considerations will to be the focus of the meeting of clothing designers, digital artists and fashion experts at the conference entitled: "Fashion in the era of digital reproduction".

Department stores in the city center

The demands of the middle class of the 19th century for direct access to a wide range of goods led the trade sector to a new form of retail, the department store. Thus, the first department stores were created in the USA and in Europe, such as Marshall Field, Harrods, Selfridges, Le Bon Marché, Galeries Lafayette etc. The big department stores dominated the metropolitan centers until the post-war era, where the phase of their maturity is located. Then, with the spread of car use, the development of retail began in the suburbs, with supermarkets and discount centers, as well as the massive shift of consumers to cheaper options. Since then, the success of department stores seems to be judged by the ability of their management to design effective strategies and take advantage of local or time opportunities. In Greece, the first large stores identified with department stores were created during the post-war period, and most of them are a continuation of the traditional independent store, with the form of the owner remaining emblematic. Typical examples are Athenée, Lambropoulos Bros, Claudatos and Minion. Their great prosperity is observed between 1970-1980, while their crisis begins, in Greece, in the mid-1990s, when they gradually begin to give way to regional shopping malls and malls. However, department stores play an important role in the vitality of urban shopping malls, act as attractions for other commercial physical stores, attracting mainly middle- and upper-income consumers and, of course, tourists. During the pandemic, they, like the whole trade, suffered serious blows. Today, they are trying to adapt to the omnichannel requirements, but also to the health requirements to reduce the waiting time in the queues and the time of the purchases. In this context, the discussion aims to map out the challenges that department stores are facing today. How are they called to work? What are the big bets to win?

Smart cities and trade

Smart cities are the bet of the Local Government for the coming years. Municipalities are called upon to implement smart city projects, so that, through the development of digital infrastructure, they can respond more effectively to the needs of the modern age, from the contact of citizens with the public administration to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the improvement of public transport, cleanliness, cyclical waste management, crime prevention and, of course, the development of sustainable trade models. The Local Government is called to invest in innovative projects, in order to increase the quality of life in the city. In this context, it is called upon to examine the role and contribution of commercial markets to the economic development and revitalization of cities. Will city malls be able to be upgraded to meet modern consumer demands? They will be able to strengthen traditional physical stores with digital infrastructure and services to enable omnichannel approaches to work efficiently? How can retailers benefit from smart cities? How can smart cities contribute to the rapid changes in the storage, collection and transportation of goods? Finally, how does the quality of the internet today affect the adoption of digital infrastructure? The above considerations will be the focus of discussion of this group of speakers.

The fashion industry after the pandemic

The fashion industry, after the pandemic and, mainly, due to the climate crisis and the change of the consumption patterns, is experiencing an intensifying transformation. It is forced to encourage new cyclical business models, with an emphasis on the reuse and recycling of raw materials. Thus, it seems to be moving from the trend of fast fashion, which lasted more than three decades, to the trend that is now called "sustainable fashion". In Greece, we observe several brands adopting such practices and / or launching entire collections based on sustainable materials, in direct response to the requirements of the circular economy, however, reducing the profit margin. Along with this "green" transformation, the digital transformation in the fashion industry is taking place, either at the level of production, or at the level of logistics, or at the level of retail trade. Focusing on retail, we see large clothing companies, multinationals in the industry, incorporating technologies that facilitate personalized shopping proposals and "remote testing", such as "digital lab", "digital stylist", and many other features. which are based on artificial intelligence, engineering learning, augmented reality technology and, more generally, the use of digital technologies. In the context of these major changes, various concerns arise. How does climate change seem to affect the fashion industry and whether it is economically viable for the clothing industry to adopt green practices? What are the big changes in the domestic retail of clothing / footwear, accessories and cosmetics? What are the best promotion practices adopted in this area? Is the domestic production of clothing and footwear really starting to grow stronger again? What are the new skills needed in the fashion industry, both in terms of production and retail?

E-commerce and innovation

Over the last ten years, the e-commerce sector has undergone tremendous growth, constantly incorporating various technological innovations. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, bigdata, the "Internet of Things" facilitate practices that until a few years ago were impossible to imagine. From the ease of product search and price comparison to the personalization of recommendations and the creation of reliable product and service delivery solutions, the evolution of technology offers opportunities for the diffusion of innovation and the creation of collaborative innovation formations. Above all, however, it offers solutions that respond to the growing need of consumers to be constantly interconnected. Until recently, the focus on the digital environment was not something that bothered physical stores. Inside the pandemic, the traditional natural stores were not ready with infrastructure and services to respond immediately and efficiently to remote consumer demand. Thus, e-commerce - including major online platforms - has become synonymous with a reliable product and service delivery system. In this new digital shopping environment, with its many online stores, large online platforms and social media, which also serve as "digital shop windows", competition within the traditional retail ecosystem has increased. In this context, various questions arise, such as, for example, under what conditions is the competition between online retailers and physical stores? What are the charging models of retailers on different platforms? How can e-shops avoid the parasitism of non-online shopping in online shopping? How do practices such as double pricing and dynamic pricing work? How does the quality of the internet affect the growth rate of e-commerce? What are the identified obstacles to domestic and cross-border activity (eg, transport costs, delivery times, heterogeneity of tax rates)? What are the needs created in the country by the growth of e-commerce? In what areas are the greatest needs for digital business training identified? These are concerns that will concern us in this section.

Digital technologies that change commerce

The emergence and expansion of the internet has contributed to shaping a new business environment, which changed the face of retail. In the period of the global financial crisis and in the context of the developing digital economy, new business models emerged, which shaped what we know today as a "sharing economy" or "cooperative economy". In other words, these are companies that create value on the internet, through the utilization of untapped private resources. In the decade 2010-2020, digital technologies evolved rapidly, providing enormous opportunities for businesses and consumers. At the same time, the use of "smart" devices, the increase of social media users, as well as the development and further consolidation of digital infrastructure have expanded even more. Thus, an ecosystem was created from digital technologies to smart devices, which "interact" and try to "catch" or even create the desire of the consumer. In the midst of this transition, many retailers - especially small and micro-stores - have been cautiously watching this evolving transformation, either because they did not have the know-how to adopt cutting-edge technologies, or because they believed that this transformation would not touch ", or because they did not have the financial resources. The Covid-19 pandemic swept away any doubt and shattered any certainty. It also imposed a radical overhaul of many business models. Small businesses in retail, where physical presence and social contact were not just the norm, but their comparative advantage over larger companies in the sub-sector, were forced by an unprecedented health crisis to either implement social distancing measures or even and shut down their. The main challenge was to choose a "contactless" way of contact with consumers. The need for their digital transformation was imposed in a compelling way. Many entrepreneurs have either embraced the use of digital tools throughout their chain of operations, or have begun to redesign their business model and adapt the processes to the temporary reclassifications of the health crisis, in order, in particular, to be able to participate in longer-term sustainable business practice changes. The digital transformation has become a condition not only for the growth of commercial enterprises, but above all for sustainability. In this context, the question arises as to how digital technologies contribute to better communication between businesses, suppliers and consumers? Does the adoption of digital technologies ultimately help reduce operating costs or not? Can digital technologies create the conditions for peaceful coexistence between medium, small and very small enterprises and multinational commercial enterprises and large platforms? How can small, medium and small businesses reap the benefits of digital technologies? The placements of the speakers are expected to illuminate the particular aspects of the digital transformation of businesses.

Transforming stores through technology

The transformations that the retail trade undergoes are causing changes in the traditional physical store. Historically, these changes have emerged as the a reflection of the wider transformations in the economy, technology and the internationalization of trade. From the small independent store to the department stores, from the traditional grocery store to the supermarkets and supermarkets, from the commercial squares to the big malls. The physical store maintained its content as a channel between producer and consumer. With saleswomen or with self-service, with free entrance or with face control. With cash, but also "verese", with credit card and interest-free installments, with debit or prepaid, with electronic banking or digital wallets, or even with cryptocurrencies. In the last decade, with the development of technology, there is a dynamic development of e-commerce, with as many commercial companies entering it dynamically gaining the largest market share. The pandemic was a powerful shock to physical stores, which was determined by contact with their customers. Thus, the digital transformation became the main challenge for them. More specifically, they are called upon to adopt digital solutions, such as e-shops, instant delivery services, data analysis, digital shelves and laboratories, and even virtual or augmented reality technologies, so that the real environment, real images are enriched with virtual representations and information. What is the physical store of the future expected to be like? Why do businesses have to adopt digital solutions in their physical space? How does the quality of the internet affect the digital transformation of physical stores? How can a digital upgrade of a store prevent show rooming or the parasitism of online shopping in offline shopping? In this context, the attitudes of the speakers will contribute constructively to the understanding of the new "purchasing" environment, which must be formulate businesses so that the customer's buying experience ensures the sale.

Trade and Sustainability

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to sustainable consumer standards, which are also linked to the purchase of environmentally friendly products. The pandemic crisis is a link in climate change, which highlights the need to turn to a sustainable model of development. In this context, the European Union, with the Green Agreement in line with the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, has systematically encouraged - if not required - companies in recent years to set environmental goals. After all, a significant portion of the Recovery Fund's resources are expected to fund sustainable development actions. Especially for businesses, goals such as the good use of natural resources, the reuse and recycling of products, the prevention and reduction of waste production and energy efficiency, are expected to be priorities in the immediate future. After all, the Russia-Ukraine war highlights the importance of self-sufficiency and sustainable development. Thus, it is no coincidence that, in the food sector, both retailers and wholesalers have invested all these years in supporting local food producers and suppliers in order to offer consumers choices and encourage sustainable and local production. In particular, they work closely with suppliers to meet the changing demand of consumers, while at the same time developing the market for sustainable and healthy food, while pioneering the provision of nutritional information. On the other hand, in the field of fashion, there is a shift towards a new ecosystem, with ecological principles and socially responsible and fair production practices, in particular as regards the conditions and context of employment relations. The transition to a green economy is considered one of the most important goals of the decade, because it will ensure sustainable development. How can Greece promote sustainable development, given that, due to its geographical location, it is exposed to the climate crisis? How will small businesses be able to adapt to change and meet the goals of sustainable development? How serious is the risk that the goal of sustainability will become an "accelerator" of a violent "creative catastrophe" in the retail sector? These questions will be answered by the participants in the group of speakers who have been invited to cover this section. 

Smart Transactions & New Trends in Payments

Convenience in managing the shopping experience by consumers is one of the major challenges of the coming years. Already, in recent years, with the spread of e-commerce, consumers have begun to become familiar with many different payment methods, but also with the use of biometric authentication, to secure transactions. But especially after the pandemic, they seem to have greater demands for easier payment methods, in all the online and offline channels of a business. However, in addition to the need to become familiar with new payment trends in order to be able to offer smart transactions, the trading company is also faced with the issue of the cost of banking. The cost of using services payments, and in particular, the cost of supply of technical equipment (POS) and the high charges of banks for electronic transactions, affect more small businesses, which are, however, the backbone of the Greek economy. This fact, combined with the high cost of internet access, creates another peculiar inequality between small and large commercial enterprises, in terms of their access to electronic transactions. What are the potential of banks to provide lower charges to small and medium-sized businesses compared to large companies? How can a lack of trust in online payments and / or concerns about the security and protection of personal data be addressed? What is an innovation in the field of electronic payments and how can it close the gap of digital inequality between small and large businesses? These are some of the questions that will concern us in this section.

Artificial intelligence in retail

Over the last decade, the evolution of digitization, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the "Internet of Things" has driven ever-changing many economic structures, including retail. The applications of artificial intelligence in retail reach all the shopping experience, from product search, robot support to customers in the store, personalized proposals in clothing, footwear and makeup, to biometric features for automated payments, digital shelves and test rooms, digital assistants and staff-free shops. But how can, in practice, traditional physical stores be formulate personalized experiences and best deals for their customers' shopping trips? How can, in practice and on what budget, they use artificial intelligence to improve the supply chain and its management? How do promoters use or intend to use artificial intelligence to benefit customer segmentation? This is the axis that will occupy us in this section.

The print of tourism in the retail trade

The "triple crisis" (fiscal, health and prices) highlighted the need for a new sectoral specialization of the Greek economy, in order to improve its resilience. Some sectors are considered to be of strategic importance for the transition of the Greek productive model. One of these sectors is tourism, whose contribution in terms of value added, as well as employment, has increased significantly, until 2019. Tourism, as the economy of final consumption, creates correlations with other sectors of the economy, bringing significant multiplier interdisciplinary benefits. 

Retail trade is one of the most typical cases of these correlations. However, it is observed that the tourist expenditure, over the years, becomes more inelastic, resulting in the tendency of tourists to budget their potential expenses before the trip. Also, the gradual growth of the "all inclusive" tourism model is associated with significant changes in tourism demand, directly affecting tourism businesses. Another factor that is a significant change in tourismactivity is the explosion of short-term real estate leasing, which affects, in addition to the catering and entertainment sector, also the retail trade.

In this context, concerns are raised about how to diffuse the benefits of tourism in other sectors, and especially in retail trade. Is it possible to map the tourist expenditure and the consumer tourist profile? Could there be a holistic plan to accelerate the multiplier effects of tourism on retail? How can city centers contribute to strengthening tourism's links with retail? The discussion aims to illuminate those areas in which ESEE's proposals for a more organic link between tourism and retail need to focus.

The impact of technology on work and business

Historically, technological transformations have been associated with changes in the level of employment. It is no coincidence that each phase of the Industrial Revolution was associated with wider changes in the structure of employment. The first Industrial Revolution brought the peasant to the factory, the second Industrial Revolution placed the worker on the "production line", while the third forced him to "talk" to technology. John Maynard Keynes spoke of "technological unemployment" (structural unemployment), in other words, the loss of jobs caused by the evolution of technology, but also pointed to the future adaptation to technological innovations. The technological progress is transforming the labor market by reducing (or zeroing) labor demand in certain industries and increasing demand in others. Especially in trade, technological transformations involve radical changes in the structure of labor relations in the industry. Now, new qualifications and high skills are considered critical. On the other hand, the adoption of digital practices is putting pressure on traditional professions in the trade, intensifying the so-called flexible forms of work. In Greece, trade continues to be the most important employer in the country (17.9% of total employment in 2021), with the share of part-time employment in the sector decreasing significantly (from 8.3% of total jobs in 2021 to 10.3 %, in 2020), documenting the creation of stable jobs. In any case, the challenges of digitalisation in employment remain open. Is it possible to maintain the balance between losing jobs and creating new ones from new specialties? What are the specialties in trade that are most threatened by technological developments? What changes do you think self-employment will undergo, which, although shrinking, is largely represented in the industry? These are the questions that the speakers of this section will be asked to answer.