Retail struggle in January 2020

It’s difficult to believe that we’re heading into the final stretch of the most whirlwind year in recent memory. We’re now less than two weeks from the official start of the Christmas trade period and we all know just how important this year’s festive season will be for our industry.

Hopefully Melbourne continues to lift the lockdown shackles so that, for the final six weeks of the year, retailers across the country will have every opportunity to finish 2020 on a strong note. To provide additional support, the National Retail Association has extended its offer of free workplace relations advice for Victorian retailers to 30 November 2020.

There was cause for optimism last week when Australia’s Reserve Bank (RBA) declared that the country may now be out of recession. The central bank is forecasting we are headed for positive national economic growth for the final three months of 2020. In addition, today the RBA has slashed the interest rate to a historic low of 0.10 per cent, with the reasoning to provide credit to more Australias and stimulate job recovery. It certainly bodes well for Christmas and a strong sales performance for retail. We are finalising the NRA’s own Christmas trade forecasts and are optimistic about a busy finish to the year.

As Melbourne reopened last week, one interesting innovation to catch the public’s eye was news that some outlets were requiring shoppers to book their attendance in advance. To do this, shoppers simply log-on to an app, select what time they wish to attend the store and then receive a confirmation text if that time is available.

While this is obviously in response to the strict COVID protocols that have accompanied the reopening of stores in Melbourne, it’s an innovation that is likely to stay. In one sense it’s convenient for consumers as it sees them go to the shops knowing they won’t have to wait in a queue.

However, it’s also incredibly beneficial to retailers by providing businesses with crucial insights into what times customers wish to visit their stores and how long they spend shopping. It also enables businesses to customise their store to a particular shopper based on past purchases. Indeed, this new technology has numerous industry experts stating its potential to drive sales. According to the developer of the SocialQ app, Dean Cherny, when shoppers book in advance they spend as much as four times as they do compared to a walk-in visit.

Providing customers with a seamless shopping experience, managing store capacity and providing a boost to sales all seem like concrete benefits that any store would want to obtain. The acceleration in online retail also means that this technology could prove crucial to bricks-and-mortar stores seeking to adapt to shifts in consumer behaviour following COVID.

Finally, and speaking of customer experience, I encourage all of you who are available to attend the Zebra Technologies virtual summit on November 10. The event will focus on key technologies retailers can leverage to improve customer experience, while increasing productivity and profitability.

The key topics canvassed include:

  1. Customer insights and trends in an on-demand economy.
  2. Supply chain optimisation strategies.
  3. Mobilising and augmenting retail staff with emerging technologies.

Further information and registration details can be found here.

All the best for the week ahead.