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Warmer days give footfall a boost, but using tech in-store holds the key to keeping it hot all year

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Overall retail sales benefitted from a boost in the weather and price rises in June 2017 according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG this week, who reported a total like-for-like increase of 1.2% and a rise of 2% on the previous month. But eCommerce accounts for most of the retail sales growth, notes the BRC – something retailers need to take note of if they want footfall to rise.

The higher spend by consumers is championed by non-food online sales according to the industry analysts, as they reported a climb of 10.1% for digital channels since May, as well as the best overall (online and in-store) three-month growth streak since December last year. The BRC noted that eCommerce continues to take ‘the lion’s share’ of retail sales growth, but that physical stores contributed more than expected, representing consumers’ preference to venture out for something specific, rather than browsing online.

“Whilst the latest figures are definitely more favourable than last month’s, retailers must look at the bigger picture,” says Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail, KPMG. “Inflation and household debt are fuelling part of this retail growth, meanwhile the industry is undergoing significant structural changes more broadly. The retailers succeeding are those embracing change.”

This acts to highlight the consumer demand for multi-channel retail, supporting the need for an omnichannel experience according to Andy Burton, CEO of Tryzens.

According to Burton: “The onus is on retailers to recognise the consumer demand for a totally joined up experience. Yes, eCommerce is driving growth, but in-store clearly holds value for consumers as part of their choices when it comes to shopping. Shoppers may prioritise a mobile device for some purchases, or even use it as default to research purchases online before heading out to the shops. Savvy retailers are investing in eCommerce but also in-store tech to boost so-called ‘showrooming’ strategies as well as the store as an important part of the overall experience – not to mention an asset for increasing fulfilment choice and consumer convenience.”

He adds: “The warmer days have boosted high street footfall, which has translated into a higher contribution towards the like-for-like increase in sales this month. But the important thing to note is that this is not at the expense of virtual stores – it is going hand-in-hand.

“As the industry gears up ahead of pre-peak sales including the Cyber Weekend, Christmas and the January sales, understanding and translating these key trends into strategic business decisions is important to ensuring the busiest time of the year is a successful one, throughout the omnichannel. For retailers with bricks and mortar stores, the key is to use eCommerce technology to get a unified view of both the customer and your stock across all and every channel. This in turn boosts the in-store experience and drives overall business results.

Burton concludes: “It stands to reason that eCommerce must remain the retailer’s key priority; the continued growth and clout it has on the industry’s performance cannot be played down. Whilst footfall might be dependent on weather among other factors, online retail experiences are going from strength to strength and are solely affected by a retailer’s commitment to them. As the BRC says, there is a big question mark over rising prices, inflation and other volatile political and economic influences, which is why it’s important for retailers to concentrate on product ranges, competitive pricing and a unified, seamless omnichannel shopping experience across the board.”

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