Data that facilitates personalisation, fashion feedback from thousands on social media and articles that go viral about where our clothes come: the last twenty years has seen some profound changes in the relationship between customer and retailer. The focus must now be on how retailers and manufacturers keep up and engage and build trusted and meaningful relationships their customers in such a fast changing world and build a new age of retail that is highly responsive and responsible to the world around it.

Today it’s the norm to snap and share with your social networks. Community platforms are now a vital slice of the retail pie - so much more than a way to share photo memories. Those same tools – Facebook, Instagram and the like - have also increased the international potential of all businesses. By enabling them quick and easy visibility to overseas customers, all markets have become possible and profitable targets.

Swimming in data, retailers can now also offer a sharply tailored shopping experience. Staff at our stores in the 1990s would have had no chance remembering the likes and dislikes of regulars. Today, retailers can operate with exact precision to make style suggestions based on someone’s past purchases as well as global and local trends.

Brands are invited further into customers’ lives with every like, tag and mention. As a result, customers are more sensitive than ever about their brand associations. Not only must the product look good, it must also be doing good. These are relationships based on trust, mutual understanding and a shared idea of what commercial connections mean in 2016. It’s about respect. At Hemingway Designs, we wanted to foster a genuine dialogue with our customers, so we created a blog where we talk about things other than our products. 2016 is not all about sell, sell, sell but rather about building, nurturing and sustaining relationships.

Two decades ago just a small handful of pioneers were committed to improving ethical standards at all stages of the supply chain. Today, it is a key marketing strategy and something brands base their entire existence around. For us, this has manifested itself in a commitment to refurbishing and sourcing products in a sustainable manner and it is embedded within our brand.

Like every year, 2016 will see innovation and change world of retail. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to get out there and profit from the experience of others. The International Festival for Business provides a platform for businesses to do just that. As an Ambassador for IFB2016, I’m looking forward to building on the success of 2014 - when the Festival generated £280m worth of deals - and welcoming global investors and the best of British to Liverpool for the three-week event.

The retail sector is no slouch; it has long been at the forefront of innovating the customer experience. Now it needs to team up with manufacturing and ensure that the two sectors are keeping up with technology, seizing opportunities to meet new people and, of course, pleasing the customer. Make this a reality and we will soon be living in an age of retail that benefits us all.

By Wayne Hemingway MBE, MBE British designer, co-founder of Hemingway Design and ambassador for the International Festival for Business 2016