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Looking ahead to the future shape of retail

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re looking at what’s working and what isn’t working for IRUK Top500 retailers and asking what it may all say about the future shape of retail.
This was the week that Marks & Spencer said it needed fewer stores as it looks to grow its clothing and home sales online. Those stores it does have will be supported by multichannel services and will bring digital further into the store. Tesco said it was closing its Tesco Direct website because of the high cost of fulfilling general merchandise sales through a dedicated warehouse. Homebase changed hands for a reported £1 as its former owners gave up on the UK market.
Meanwhile, multichannel discount shoe seller Shoe Zone said that its efforts to buy its stock direct and to reduce rents on some of its 500 stores had put it in a good place for the future, while Mountain Warehouse reported its 21st year in a row of growth – with 25% of its sales now online.
Setting the context, the ONS said that ecommerce sales were up in April compared to last year, but down compared to March’s snowy and cold weather. Across all retail, shoppers spent more this year than last. 
Are there conclusions to be drawn? Retailers’ actions seem to be signposting a future of ’smart’ store estates: digitally-connected shops, with only as many as a given retailer really needs. We’ll expect to see more traditional stores reducing their numbers over time, while more recent newcomers grow within carefully defined limits. Meanwhile, it will also be important to keep online infrastructure simple, sharing resources such as fulfilment at the back-end. Such resources might be shared not only between store and online, but potentially, in the future, between competitors.
Today is GDPR day, meaning an end to the very many emails updating customers on privacy policies or asking them to opt in to messages. Sarah Taylor of Smart Focus considers the issue in today’s guest comment, while Vibrant Media research suggests brands may find 43% of their customer data is rendered unusable by the new legislation.

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