In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter, we continue to report on what is, said Asda chief customer officer Andy Murray this week, the most competitive retail market in the world. He was comparing the market with the US, where around half the level of home shopping is done, compared to the UK - and he pointed to the level of innovation that takes place in the UK as a result of that competition. Beyond that competitiveness in a market where a growing proportion of sales now take place online, there’s also the factor of political uncertainty in the face of Brexit, as reflected in today’s guest comment from Razat Gaurav of Llamasoft. He considers how retailers can plan in just such times of uncertainty. All of this adds up to a market in which more and more retailers are closing stores and negotiating lower rents, often through CVAs – as mentioned in Intu’s latest trading statement today – both as they reshape their businesses for what they perceive their customers want, and, often, in order to stay afloat. But this, said Justin King formerly chief executive of Sainsbury’s, does not add up to a ‘retailapocalypse’. Rather, he argued, speaking at Retail Expo this week, it’s all part of the fast change that is always taking place in retail.
Thus N Brown Group this week showed how it was changing its business, which started in mail order before moving online and then opening shops. Today that offline element, including the stores, is going through managed decline, and the retailer is instead focusing on its end customer through digital, and especially mobile.
Neil Phillips of M&S, whose own transformation envisages 30% of its business being online, set out at Retail Expo this week how it is using click and collect, and return to store, to bring shoppers into its stores, which still numbers well over 500 owned stores despite recent closures.
Andy Murray of Asda told the conference how his business has focused on removing the ‘dissatisfiers’ from its business – opting to satisfy customers by prioritising the hassle-free over the friction-free.
Each of these, of course, illustrate the choices that each retail business makes around how it understands its customers’ needs and behaviour. Today we also cover research that suggests customers buy online because it’s easy – although they’d like, and expect, to see delivery get faster.