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EDITORIAL How post-pandemic retail is more online and local – and hopefully more diverse

Growth can be found in new and unexpected places (Image: Shutterstock_1639774732)

Growth can be found in new and unexpected places (Image: Shutterstock_1639774732)

eBay maybe predicting that a massive sales boom is about to commence when restriction begin to lift on Monday 29 March, however that belies how different retail looks today than it did when this all started.

There is of course much more grocery and general retail shopping taking place online, along with a related growth in click and collect services and a growing interest in ‘come to me’ retail, where items are delivered, concierge style, to their homes in a curated way.

The pandemic has also changed retail in other more subtle ways. Shoppers are much more local in their approach to where they shop, as well as being increasingly aware of the need for sustainable operations.

Together these shifts have created a new model for retailing. Witness how John Lewis and Partners latest tranche of store closures – shuttering stores in York, Peterborough, Sheffield and Aberdeen, along with ‘at home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells – is being offset to some degree by a pledge to look at local solutions for demand in these and other regions, based around expanded click and collect at Waitrose and third-party retailer stores.

But the changes to retail don’t end there. There is also a cultural shift taking place around diversity and inclusion in retail. With the reset button hit a year ago by pandemic, many are now looking not only at how to become online-orientated omni-channel retailers, but also looking at how they can run themselves in more 21st Century-appropriate way.

Sustainability in manufacture, sales and delivery is one area that has already garnered much attention, but the issue of diversity and inclusion is one that is perhaps less well understood.

A study by The British Retail Consortium paints a picture of an industry with boardrooms unreflective of what the real world looks. The report launched today by the BRC, The MBS Group and PwC finds that, while 32.6% of board, 32.0% of executive boards and 37.5% of direct reports to board are women, more than one in five retailers have no women at all on their boards, and 15% have no women on their executive committees.

The study also finds that 69% of retailers have an all-male CEO, CFO and chair. Only 9.6% of the industry’s CEOs are women and just 4.3% of the sector’s chairs are women.

To tackle this growing issue, the BRC has launched a Diversity and Inclusion Charter has already signed up more than 50 leading retailers, with the aim of making retail a better place for everyone as the industry emerges from lockdown.

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