Editor's Comment

How retailers from John Lewis to Hotel Chocolat are facing up to change

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re covering subjects from Brexit to business rates. Despite the fact that more than half of retailers say their business was affected when sterling weakened after the EU referendum – in positive and negative ways – it seems that most still have no plans for what happens after Brexit.

Retailers have had to get used to change in recent years in which the way customers buy has changed fast, and it can be a painful process – today we report as John Lewis changes its business to provide customers of its fitted blinds, curtains and carpets with more efficient service, both online and offline. As a result it expects to reduce its workforce by almost 400 jobs, net. Elsewhere, the Government looks set to act to smooth out other painful effects of change following a business rates revaluation that will reflect the way property prices have risen faster in some parts of the country than others.

But in retail, change often seems to lag behind the customer. As we see from Paul Skeldon’s story, 47% of retailers questioned by JDA have yet to start putting a digital transformation strategy into place in response to a shopping revolution that’s already well underway. One key factor may be that many of those that have invested haven’t found it profitable. At the same time, retail workers are also the least likely, from a number of industries, to have prepared for the coming effects of automation on their jobs, according to a LivePerson study also out today.

Is the long-term being sacrificed to short-term profitability in this? We believe that automation, Brexit and digital transformation are all coming, in one way or another, and no doubt sooner than we expect. The government is unlikely to be able protect businesses against all long-term negative effects of change. Having a plan that helps boards face up to future change, whether predictable or not, will help them ensure that when change does come, it works in their favour as far as it can. Today we report on one company with a very interesting plan: Hotel Chocolat is building its plans for the future by securing its supply chain, to some extent. It has bought its own cocoa estate in a move that is likely to guarantee it at least some level of raw product on its own terms: so far the move has not hurt its profits, and seems likely to lead to more in future.

Today’s preview of IRX 2017 looks at how retailers can plan to delight customers in a changing world, with an overview of the Customer Obsession Conference, while in today’s guest comment, Ray Fowler of Transform considers the technologies that are already bringing change to retail in 2017.

Webinars
The next InternetRetailing webinar is on February 22, when RedEye’s CCO Matthew Kelleher will consider whether technology companies are giving marketers what they really want. He points to a disconnect between the technology companies and their clients, and will ask what support retailers need from their providers to make their marketing strategies work. In a world of intuitive marketing tech, is there still a part for people to play? will be on February 22 at 2pm. Visit the RedEye webinar page to find and more and register for the free event.

On March 16, Pitney Bowes’ senior vice president, consumer and merchant solutions Jonathan Kapplow will be looking at practical approaches to selling via the global marketplaces that are expected to represent 39% of the online retail market in 2020. How to expand into high growth emerging economies through global marketplaces is at 2pm on March 16. Visit the Pitney Bowes webinar page to find out more and register for the free event.

On March 21, web performance experts Andy Davies and Simon Hearne of the NCC Group join InternetRetailing for a webinar looking at how retailers can make their sites perform better and faster, and how they can measure existing experiences and learn from that data to make improvements in the right places. Is your site’s speed losing you sales is at 2pm. <a
Click to visit the Internet Retailing webinar page to catch up on the latest events.

IRX and EDX
Eight conferences packed with retail speakers and covering everything from omnichannel and international to delivery are running at the InternetRetailing Expo, from April 5 to 6 at the NEC in Birmingham. To learn more about IRX 2017, its sister conference eDelivery Expo and to register for free, visit www.internetretailingexpo.com and www.edeliveryexpo.com.

Attendees can also get a 25% discount on their train fare to the NEC when they book through the IRX or EDX visitor information website.

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