The recent figures from the BRC IMRG retail sales monitor show an improvement in the retail picture for May.
However, retailers should not be complacent and will need to continue to ensure they are looking ahead and examining their approach, according to industry commentators.
Fujitsu UK director of retail and hospitality Adrian West said: “May’s sales growth is a big relief for the industry. Retailers already know that consumers are becoming more conscious of where and how they spend their money, and their expectations of the shopping experience have risen significantly. Consumer behaviour is often unpredictable, but two bank holidays, sunnier weather and a royal wedding proved to be the perfect mix for a boost in sales. However, retailers shouldn’t forget that British summer only lasts a few weeks, and they need to plan ahead how to keep their sales up for the rest of the year.
“For instance technology is a powerful influence on where consumers shop; four in five Brits would actually spend more in a shop with a better technology experience. Given the challenges in the current retail landscape, retailers need to think about how they can use technology in their stores to improve customer loyalty and revenues. In fact, we found 46% of UK consumers believe AR will positively impact retail, with VR behind at 22%. However, only 50% of retailers have a digital strategy to implement these technologies, which begs the question, where is the disconnect between what consumers are saying they want, and what retailers are giving them?
“Shopping in-store is now very much experiential, and by bringing innovative new ways to shop, retailers can enhance that experience to make it more interactive, digitally enabled and help to boost their sales and loyalty base. If retailers want to see success, they cannot deny consumers’ desire for technology and need to embrace digital innovations. Retailers need to think about how they can apply this to their whole experience, from online, mobile, to in-store.”
Loyalty Pro managing director Rob Meakin commented: “Whether it’s the royal wedding or good weather, retailers cannot expect consumers’ spend during seasonal periods to translate into long-term success. The truth is the ongoing shift to online is having real consequences for the high-street; 6,000 stores closed in 2017 alone. This challenge is true if you’re a national brand like Sainsbury’s or a smaller, local community store.
“The high street isn’t dead, it’s just consumers’ shopping habits that have changed; they are constantly looking for a service that is tailor-made for them and incentivises the experience, which is why we’re seeing an upturn in personalised loyalty services that do exactly that. A great loyalty scheme will offer deals based on purchasing habits and online searches, providing relevant offers that matter to the consumer. It’s a sure-fire way to show the customer you understand what they want, and build a relationship that survives past retail peaks. Retailers that rely on a royal wedding and good weather all year round will be digging an early grave.
“Achieving retail success locally can be an even bigger feat for community-based retailers. Our own recent survey conducted with local loyalty card holders showed that over 90% of people believe a community scheme is a great idea. With imagination, commitment and vision these initiatives can have a real impact and begin to reverse the trend of unpredictable retail figures and store closures.”