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EDITORIAL How IRUK Top500 retailers from John Lewis to M&S understand and adapt to customer demand

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Understanding how shoppers want to buy is vital
Understanding how shoppers want to buy is vital
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How IRUK Top500 retailers from John Lewis to M&S are understanding and adapting to customer demand

This week, retailers from John Lewis, M&S and The Co-op to Morrisons and Dunelm showed how they are changing the way they sell in response to customer behaviour.
Dunelm says it’s all about giving shoppers the best customer experience it can, through what it intends to be the best multichannel service in homewares, and John Lewis and Waitrose are focusing on customer service, across all channels.
Morrisons is putting the emphasis on a broad range of sales channels as it expands its online operation but says it’s well on its way to turning over £1bn a year from wholesale, including its partnership with Amazon. In doing so, the supermarket recognises that shoppers who want to buy its products may want to buy them in a way that other retailers make possible.
Marks & Spencer has introduced new technology that will enable it to listen to what its customers are saying and amend its strategy accordingly, while MediaMarkt Saturn is experimenting to see what innovations resonate with its customer base. The Co-op is trialling in-store approaches from pay-in-aisle to delivering via Deliveroo or even robots to see how its shoppers react.
These approaches all reflect the importance to retailers of understanding how customers want to buy. Adding functionality that shoppers don’t want may prove an expensive white elephant. On the other hand, failing to deploy the approaches that they do want could be equally expensive. Certainly, John Lewis is planning to invest up to £500m a year in technology, even if that comes at the expense of short-term profits - as seen in the first half of its financial year, when its top-line profits were 99% down on the same time last year. That said, adapting to customer demand is also about delivering profitability over the long-term. But at a time of what John Lewis’ Charlie Mayfield has dubbed a "generational change" in the way we shop, it’s perhaps inevitable that profits will be hit in the short term. That’s likely to continue to reshape the retail landscape over coming years.

Today’s guest comment comes from Charlie Pool of Stowga, who considers the role distributed warehousing can play in the future supply chain.

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