We provide a brief insight into key news items that are causing a stir locally and globally.
THE RETAIL REVOLUTION: HOW AI IS DRIVING THE SECTOR FORWARD
Technological revolution continues to change the face of retail at a faster pace than ever. The customer demand for digital interactivity, both in terms of e-commerce and in the way that bricks and mortar retailers function, is driving a radical rethink in the way brands approach the customer experience.
Retailers are increasingly beginning to invest in new emerging technologies. From artificial intelligence to mixed reality, brands are embracing platforms to help boost revenues and attract a wider customer base.
New technologies offer a wealth of benefits to retailers, perhaps most notably to improve logistics and streamline customer deliveries. According to data collated through PwC’s 2018 consumer insights survey, 40 percent of online shoppers would pay more for same-day delivery and 62 percent expect their orders to arrive within two days.
Automated tools can offer instant responses to simple order tracking queries, while more complex AI set-ups could be used to monitor logistics and predict pinch points, thereby preventing problems before they occur.
GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES FIRST RETAIL SECTOR COUNCIL
March 2018 saw the launch of the first industry-led Retail Sector Council, a group formed to review the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector. The Council was unveiled by Retail Minister Andrew Griffiths and Richard Pennycook, Chairman of Fenwick, The Hut Group and Howden Joinery Group.
The Council will meet regularly with industry to look at how best to ensure it can adapt to rapid changes in consumer behaviour and to examine the wider business environment. This will include analysis of how new technologies can help boost customer service and the ways in which sector productivity can be boosted.
Senior representatives from some of the UK’s biggest brands, including John Lewis, Amazon, Boots and ASOS, will join the Council, which has been formed as part of the Government’s push to ensure the UK is economically fit for the future.
LOCAL ARTISAN TRADERS HELPING DEPARTMENT STORES THRIVE
Online shopping has proven to be a critical factor in the declining popularity of department stores over recent years, with bricks and mortar businesses having to work harder than ever to drive footfall.
Household names Debenhams and House of Fraser have established an innovative way of attracting new shoppers to their Manchester stores. The brands have been inviting local independent traders to set up pop-up shops in their stores.
Innovative artificial intelligence technology has helped the stores to match customer profiles with relevant start-ups to ensure that the right brands are invited to take up the concession spaces. Using technology provided by Irish firm, Popertee, the national retailers can assess how long customers spend looking at a particular brand and use heat-maps to gauge the success of pop-up events.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO MOTORWAY STOPS
Founded by the Dunning family in the 1970s, Westmorland is taking a fresh view on the way motorway service stations are run. With three outlets, two near the Cumbrian village of Tebay and one on the M5 near Gloucester, the family-run business now serves ten million customers a year.
The business prides itself on taking what for many is a necessary stop en-route to a final destination and turning it into a pleasant retail experience. From food halls stocked with produce from more than 70 local suppliers to the freshly butchered sausages used in the restaurants, Westmorland is committed to quality.
Last year for the first time an outsider was brought in to lead the business forward as Rob Swyer, former retail director at Halfords, stepped into the role of Chief Executive. Over the past year, Swyer has been driving Westmorland forward through a workforce-focused approach, introducing an in-house business academy and apprenticeship programme.