Editor's Comment

Is there a link between falling sales and falling staff hours?

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re struck by some of the figures and news released over the last day or two. We’re looking at figures showing a fall in retail sales – and a fall in retail staffing. In our view, the two are not unconnected. Fujitsu’s Heather Barson says in our piece looking at the figures that it’s important for staff to work with, not against, technology. Technology gives the opportunity, she says, for staff to focus on the customer.

In that context, it’s notable that figures out this week from Debenhams show that’s just what the department store is doing: it’s taking in-store tasks away from around 2,000 staff so they can focus on customers. It’s part of a customer-centric strategy that it says is having an effect on both customer satisfaction and net promoter scores – and it’s a measure that’s resulting in more attention from sales staff rather than less.

It’s notable that Amazon, which is today celebrating the fast roll-out of voice-controlled shopping via Alexa, is not cutting jobs either. Rather it’s expanding the logistics, research and head office roles that support its approach to shopping. For us, it’s clear that staff are part of technology businesses, rather than able to be replaced by the technology. The human factor is all in retail: after all it’s humans who are doing the shopping. While technology may be enough when the sale goes smoothly, those human shoppes want to be able to solve problems via a phone call or an in-store conversation with someone who understands their needs.

Today we report on Footasylum’s latest update on its IPO and look at also look at what search trends say about the relative importance of Christmas and Hallowe’en.

Today’s guest comment comes from Tom Manning of Forward 3D who considers the role of voice assistants in the retail of the future.

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