March Retail Round-Up

Posted by Momentum Instore on 31 March 2018

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March’s retail news was dominated by the Beast from The East, but let’s also take a look at what else is changing the landscape of our high streets. Could Artificial Intelligence beat the next beast?

Could artificial intelligence beat the next beast?

AI vs The Beast, sounds like the next Hollywood Sci-Fi blockbuster, doesn’t it? But this could be reality if retailers take a different approach to handling the effect of extreme conditions. Adverse weather making transport difficult and forcing people to stay indoors left retailers bearing the brunt.

Replenishment was a huge issue for many supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Aldi. Software company, Blue Yonder, suggest that retailers adopt a new approach and use technology to improve product availability during extreme conditions. Using an Artificial Intelligence replenishment solution may be the answer.

AI can analyse large amounts of data, including sales trends and the influence of previous snowstorms on customer demand across all product categories. It can then order the exact quantities of stock needed. Spotting trends that a human may miss can only lead to great customer service, resulting in retained brand loyalty. For example, identifying that the last time adverse weather hit the UK close to Easter, sales of chocolate increased by 3.4%.

This technology can also identify trends per store within an estate, and replenish accordingly, basing its forecast on variables such as weather, promotions and holidays.

Sad day for retail

Toys R Us and Maplin, two of the UK’s best-known retailers collapsed into administration on the same day.

The two companies have struggled to compete with giant internet retailers and the weight of debts racked up by private equity backers. Their administrators were still hopeful to sell all or part of the companies, if no buyers can be found, 5,500 jobs will be at risk adding to the flurry of job losses witnessed already this year. Labour has called on the government to hold talks with the two retailers and trade unions to safeguard jobs after official figures show unemployment rising as its fastest rate for five years.

Staff cuts have also been announced at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer.

Neil Wilson, a senior market analyst at ETX Capital, stated: “The Amazon effect is all too clear to see” but he also said that that retailers are able to prosper if they have the resources to adapt.

Store closures

New Look, owned by South Africa’s Brait, is the latest to fall victim to the difficulties faced by the High Street with challenging performance and an over-rented UK store estate. The struggling fashion retailer could close 60 of its 593 stores, along with a further 6 sites which are sub-let to third parties; putting nearly 1,000 of their employees out of work.

New Look has begun a company voluntary arrangement – a form of insolvency aimed at protecting the business from closing completely. It is seeking approval for a restructuring plan from its creditors to include rent reductions and new lease terms for 393 of its stores. The retailers have asked its lenders to approve the proposed plan to restore long-term profitability by 21 March and say all stores will remain open until this date.

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