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February’s retail news has focussed on retailers that are planning to implement significant changes in the year ahead.
Job cuts and closures
Following disappointing sales figures over Christmas, M&S has announced the closure of 14 stores, some of them more than 80 years old. It is also planning to bring forward a restructuring plan to make its stores more relevant to a new generation of shoppers.
Morrisons, which actually did pretty well at Christmas with sales up by 2.8%, has announced large-scale job cuts with 1,500 shop floor workers due to be axed as part of a restructure. The grocer is planning to cut the number of managers and increase its customer service staff. But it’s not just Morrisons. Job cutting in the grocery sector seems to be on the cards for many of the big supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda. But it doesn’t stop there. In the DIY sector, B&Q has also announced job cuts at its head office and, in clothing, Topshop/Topman has announced thousands of job cuts.
People v technology
With retail staff in the firing line and the recent launch of Amazon Go, there has been some speculation in the media as to whether the shops of the future will employ staff at all . With modern technology more advanced and accessible than ever before, it will no doubt revolutionise the way we shop in the future.
The Amazon Go supermarket in Seattle, which opened its doors at the end of January, shows just how far technology has already come so there is bound to be lots more speculation about this over the coming months.
A personal experience without people?
How can retailers hope to achieve a more personalised service for shoppers by employing less people? Surely, robots and Artificial Intelligence can’t create the same personal experience in store?
According to Mike Sands, CEO of Signal: “Bricks and mortar retailers don’t have to die. They just have to go back to how business was done 100 years ago” . Back then, customers would go in to a store and the shop manager would know them by name and know what they wanted. They even knew their families and what size they were. It was an entirely personal shopping experience.
Perhaps the secret to retailing in the modern world, where the scale of retailers is much larger than it was 100 years ago, isn’t to get rid of staff but rather to use the data we now have access to, and these incredible new technologies, to focus on improving customer services, personalisation and customer experience?
Retail park growth
While some retailers are making cut backs, there appears to be strong growth in the UK’s out of town retail parks. Cheshire Oaks has announced that construction will begin this month on a 40,000 sq ft extension which will include 25 brand new retailers.
A £40m retail park is being planned in Devon which will create around 400 new jobs at the development in Exeter .
New VR tool for instore design
A new Virtual Reality tool has been unveiled to design retail environments which maximise shopper experience .
The new tool ‘Perfect Category’, developed by Kantar Consulting, allows brands and retailers to test out new store designs as well as integrate purchase spend data with measured and observed shopper behaviour.
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