You’ll need the best people to weather the storm of change in retail

08 March 2018

The ongoing transformation of the retail sector is clear for all to see. Retailers need to find ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency, as wage costs rise with the National Living Wage, and consumer spending being squeezed. At the same time, what shoppers want from retail is changing in many radical ways. For retail to face these challenges, it needs to attract the best people to navigate the new and fast-changing landscape to find the right solution. And the people retail businesses are looking for are not the check-out assistants and the warehouse staff, but highly skilled people for team-leader and managerial positions. The UK retail sector is set to create 54,800 jobs by 2020, the majority of these, 41,700, are expected to be in managerial positions.

So, what are the changes facing retail? And what should they be offering these talented millennials to attract them into retail away from the sparkling offerings of technology and finance?

Some of the changes and challenges the retail sector faces

  • People are buying more stuff online: Amazon’s UK sales more than doubled to $19bn between 2010 and 2017. But it’s not just Amazon. Online shopping has done well for a long-time in books and music for example, but easy return policies have made online shopping cheap, easy and risk-free for consumers in clothing
  • People are shifting their spending from things to experience: consumers have shifted their spending away from clothing towards travelling and eating out. Spending on clothes is down. Its share of total consumer spending has declined by 20% this century. On the other hand, travel is booming, hotel occupancy is growing rapidly, airline travel is booming as are restaurants
  • Shops need to change their experience: They need to be more than just a store; they need to give an experience. They need to use their physical presence to advertise and promote their online offering and, increasingly advertise and promote their online offering. Increasingly shops have their online offering available in-store
  • Retail needs to embrace the next changes: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are likely to transform the retail experience. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to understand what individual shoppers want and personalise their shopping experience. Virtual Reality can allow customers to try products in a created reality, so customers can see how the product they are about to buy looks and operates in “real” life. Converse, the trainer and footwear company, have done this to allow their customers to try on shoes.

What about the people to help retail businesses address these many challenges?

It is obvious that a good working environment (good team ethics, good people to work with, good office spaces and a good package) consisting of a good salary, bonus and stock options is going to attract good people, but what makes the difference? It is this difference that makes an employer stand out to those employees you want to attract. Here are few of the extras that some companies offer according to a round up from Glassdoor of what, in its opinion, are the top extras:

  • ASOS offers massive fashion discounts on its products of up to 40%
  • Google gives its staff free food from a whole range of cuisines in a staff canteen that is more restaurant than fast food
  • Pentland Brands, a clothing company with such brands as Berghaus and Speedos, has its own on-site gym and pool with unlimited usage and extended opening hours
  • Auto Trader UK offers discounted wine deliveries straight to its employees’ homes
  • The Body Shop offers its employees up to 5 days a year of paid volunteering. It also offers its employees a significant 5% discount on its products
  • ARM Holdings a tech company offers its employees a 4-week sabbatical after 4 years employment
  • Huddle, another tech company gives its new employees a £5,000 joining bonus.

These are some of the innovative ideas some offer. What is clear in the retail sector is that it faces challenges. It will need good people to address these and to attract them. Retail companies will need to offer them innovative additions to good basic packages.

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