The Retailer Spring_09.05_FA


It’s not all bad news. Despite the news Barely a day seems to go by without news of distress in the UK high street and retail sector. Some of our biggest household names are facing significant challenges; we’re seeing an unprece- dented level of store closures and a downturn in consumer demand and profits. Without question the retail industry is experiencing one of the toughest times in recent memory. And we should all be concerned about the health and wealth of an industry that employs over 3.1 million people and contributes £94 billion to the UK economy each year. But the constant drip feed of negative headlines overshadows a bigger picture of an industry evolving and innovating towards a more diverse and vibrant future. Retail is a human business Retailers are investing heavily in tech and digital, but this is just one piece of the transformation jigsaw. Andrew Busby, Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections, stresses that all the technology in the world means nothing if it isn’t deployed in a human fashion. Retail remains first and foremost, a human business. Sezin Tumer, Global Principal Retail Innovation Manager at Vodafone, agrees that tech shouldn’t be executed for tech’s sake, but should be driven by customer need. She’s currently spear- heading a new initiative to blend Vodafone’s digital and physical assets that puts the customer experience at the very centre of its approach. Vodafone’s ‘Customer Hub’ which opened on Oxford Street in December 2018 is a great example. Described as a ‘pot of experimentation’, the hub, amongst other things, contains a business lounge, a Click and Collect lane for the 40% of online customers who collect their orders in-store, and a How-to Hub for the older generation. Martin Francis, Customer & Digital Director at Karen Millen/Coast is also putting customers at the centre of digital transformation, using data to understand the individual consumer –people, not numbers - and how technology can add value to them. So, while technology is changing the face of retail, the basics of good retailing – with the customer at its heart – remains the same.

Cracking the customer experience nut Consumers want to engage with brands, browse, test and purchase products in more innovative ways. They also want relevance, personalisation, authenticity, social connection and more. We know it’s those retailers who really understand and adapt to customers’ evolving needs and expectations – across online and offline, digital and physical – are the ones who will thrive in the future. New entrants to the market, such as The Pud Store, are really cracking the customer experience nut. Despite having no online transactional website, Pud Store founder Frances Bishop, has achieved a mass following to her five stores, two opening just last month. Customers are even catching planes to get a unique in-store experience that’s fully tailored to her target market, including baby feeding rooms and interactive play areas for kids. Martin Newman, Founder of The Customer First Group asserts that if we can give customers what they really want, we can ensure a great future for retail. So, despite what we hear in the news, it’s not Armageddon retail, but reinvention retail we should be talking about. And that’s good news for all of us. We know the direction of travel, but it’s not easy for everyone to get there. That’s why we’re bringing together and will be putting our questions to Frances, Sezin, Martin, Andrew and others at our reinvention retail event 22 May. The event, which will focus on providing real-life examples, practical tools and solutions for retailers working to navigate, evolve and innovate though these challenging but exciting times, is open to all those working in and support- ing UK retail and is free for BRC Members. Book online Join the conversation: @the_BRC #reinventionretail WHAT NEXT?

Check out our exploration of what retail looks like in 2030 in BRC’s new podcast series. The retail podcast - British Retail Consortium

22 | spring 2019 | the retailer

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