3 Questions for Selvane Mohandas du Ménil
Managing Director of the International Association of Department Stores (IADS)

Selvane Mohandas du Ménil

The IADS is a proven observatory for department stores around the world. It studies, analyses, and shares industry best practices with its international membership, which includes Galeries Lafayette in France. Here’s a closer look at its activities, initiatives, and vision for the future, as shared by its Managing Director. 

What is the role of the IADS? 

The IADS, the International Association of Department Stores, was founded in 1928 by department store owners who understood that their family-oriented business model could evolve, especially by integrating management methods from the United States. The Association currently includes 12 members. It acts as a think tank, shares best practices between the world’s different department stores, and appraises the sector’s problems and progress to start conversations between professionals and combine their strengths for joint actions. 

We base our work on the fact that department stores are important businesses with a significant number of employees, but also with strong local roots. So initiatives in one country or region may be useful to other members. It’s our responsibility to identify those projects and pass them on. To do that, we organise meetings between CEOs, HR Directors, and sales, marketing, and purchasing professionals. We answer their questions and, via our internet site and members-only newsletter, we provide detailed analyses and figures on retail.

The Association’s mission is to be a watchtower that represents department stores across the globe – a relatively unique vocation. Our Academy, founded 26 years ago, is also important, and 40% of department store CEOs have completed that training. 

Tell us about your project for a platform for department store buyers. 

We saw that, with the health crisis, habits changed. Yes, buyers are starting to travel again, but less frequently, and their trips are shorter. So we wanted to help them and make their life easier with a platform created in partnership with Born Digital. The platform uses artificial intelligence to help guide the discovery process and lead buyers to the new products that meet their needs. To put it simply, we want to send the right information to the right person. The platform is only for IADS members. It’s now being tested and will be operational in the 2022 first quarter. 

How are department stores evolving after such an unusual period? 

Overall, we observed the appearance of an unexpected agility! For example, faced with store closures, department stores made remote working more common – something they had thought impossible before. And this impressive flexibility continues. We’re also seeing digital technology being applied to more areas. Stores’ awareness and the changes they’ve made have been very concrete. 

One example is the El Corte Inglés stores in Spain, which considered their model to be omnichannel before the health crisis. During the store closures, they sent all their headquarters staff to stores to fill customers’ click & car orders. Gradually they also set up innovative services. Today in Madrid, the store can take an order by phone or online and, within two hours, deliver a luxury bag and fresh fish together. Even Amazon isn’t able to do that. Of course, that brings up other questions, such as what systems should now be set up to be a top performer or how to find your place in future sales channels. 

And finally, CSR is a core subject. All our European members have guaranteed that their in-house brands will be 100% responsible by the end of 2022 / beginning of 2023. But even in markets where that’s not a priority, like Mexico or the Philippines, we notice that CSR is a theme that CEOs think is important.

Along with that, there are changes that relate specifically to Paris and the world’s major tourist cities. While they’re waiting for the tourists to come back, stores have had to reconnect with local clients who had been forgotten. That’s resulted in some interesting initiatives, like Galeries Lafayette Haussmann’s (Re)Store or their live-stream shopping during lockdown. A new, better way of communicating is also being put in place, and that’s exciting.