Retail reflections and trends

Curium | 13 Dec 2017 | News | General News

A Christmas shopping trip and a hot chocolate prompts some retail reflections from Curium Solutions’ managing director Andy Dawson

The other weekend, I took my two boys into our local town for a spot of Christmas shopping. We noticed that the high street was a little quiet (again).

My eldest (only 10 years’ old) asked what happens when (as packages arrive daily in our household) Amazon takes over our town?

It’s a great question, and I’m sure CEOs across the country have thought that same thing.

I think we are all very aware of the challenges in the retail sector. In several blogs, we have talked about the challenges the sector is facing.

In Sunday’s papers, I read stories about the sharp drop in Steinhoff’s (owner of Poundland) share price following the shock resignation of the CEO amid some potential financial irregularities.

Department stores like House of Fraser and Debenhams are under real scrutiny, and we are waiting to see whether turnaround king Archie Norman can breathe new life into sluggish Marks & Spencer!

On the other hand, Amazon keeps marching on. Jeff Bezos is confirmed as the world’s richest man and who knows how Black Friday (love or hate it) will have hindered or helped retailers.

We’ve heard mixed results from Dixons Carphone, but analysts suggest more bad news could be coming. Let’s hope not.

I’ve been reading Vend’s ‘Retail trends and predictions for 2018 and beyond’ report. Its conclusions match some of my reflections after talking to my son in Café Botanico in our local House of Fraser:

  • Bricks and mortar stores will continue to flourish. The death of the high street has been a headline many times over but, as Vend’s report confirms, stores that offer great experiences will flourish. House of Fraser is not alone in enticing us with new, exciting casual dining experiences. Next and Debenhams are also doing this. My son certainly enjoyed his hot chocolate and cake, and described the store as being “very posh” (never said before!), so something worked there!
  • Data will (and should) drive retail decisions. Walmart is using AI to help inform delivery routes, and facial recognition technology to identify when queuing customers are frustrated and a new checkout needs to be opened. Technology investments in 2018 will focus on shoppers’ mobile devices and ‘Internet of Things’ technologies. B&Q has its B&Q Gardens app, which helps customers to identify plants and find the right toll for their task. Add to this, increased use of augmented reality, such as Ikea Place, which allows you to preview how its products would look at home. Robots are coming and we’re starting to see brands like H&M and Pizza Hut experiment with shoppable robots.

My son already loves my smartphone, so it won’t be long before he is well ahead of my understating of how technology will change retail.

The key take-away from me and for my son is to focus on your best chances of winning in retail. CEOs around the country are having to make some very smart bets when designing and, most importantly, delivering their strategies.

I’ve spoken at a number of events recently, and feedback from the people has a similar theme. The ability to take strategy out of the boardroom and galvanise teams to execute strategic plans is more important now than ever before.

Refurbishing stores and investing in technology do not come cheaply, and nor will they succeed unless your employees are behind your strategy. Getting the people side wrong, whether that’s your customers or your teams delivering these changes, will lead to disappointment.

Now more than ever before, the ability to deliver change and sustain it will be a key differential and a source of competitive advantage for businesses who excel at change management.

Serve my son a seriously funky hot chocolate and hook him up to WIFI, and he’ll be a friend for life.

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