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Concern in retail increases as consumer confidence dips

Sebastien Sepierre, MD EMEA - Fourth

A third (33%) of retail employees expect to see fewer customers amid consumer confidence dips during the cost of living crisis according to market research*.

Unsurprisingly the cost of living crisis is having an impact on the customer, with one in five consumers (18%) expecting to spend less on groceries this year. With the cost of living continuing to rise, shoppers are reviewing how they spend their money. Just over a quarter (26%) are planning to cut their budgets for clothes and shoes before the end of the year, while holidays (28%) and other luxury purchases (25%) will also feel the impact. However, these spending drops will be less pronounced for sport and leisure (7%) and automotive (9%); potentially due to these items generally being stand-alone purchases.

Enhancing the shopping experience with technology to meet demands
The latest research, featured in their whitepaper Navigating the Retail Industry Today, also shows that it remains incredibly important for retailers to understand consumer needs to attract them back to the high street amid challenging times. Currently, fewer than half of consumers (48%) feel there is the right amount of shop floor staff available to help them when they are making purchases.

Ahead of the festive season, consumers are favouring a blended retail experience that combines the ease of online shopping with the convenience of collecting their goods in-store, driving customers back to the high street where they’re likely to spend more when picking up purchases.  Shoppers are looking for retail brands to balance both useful technologies alongside an enhanced in-store staff presence. When it comes to the tech that consumers feel most improves their experience, click and collect comes out on top with shoppers for both the clothing and beauty (19%) and the grocery (18%) retail experiences. Interestingly, an eCommerce presence was ranked as least likely to improve the retail experience (clothing and beauty, 9% and grocery, 7%).

Encouragingly, both retail leaders and employees alike are aware of their shopper’s preference for click and collect, ranking first and second respectively as an important factor to business success for the remainder of the year.

Top three…
… most important factors to business success for retail leaders … factors most likely to improve retail employees job day-to-day
Click and collect (30%) Shop-floor automation (36%)
eCommerce presence (28%) Click and collect (35%)
Store management technologies (including scheduling and productivity) (27%) Warehouse automation and dark retail (a retail outlet or distribution centre that exists exclusively for fulfilment, with no consumer-facing elements) (30%)

Responding to this latest data, Sebastien Sepierre, Managing Director – EMEA, Fourth, said: It is not surprising to see shoppers review their spending habits given the intensity of the cost of living crisis. As inflationary pressures increase, a great customer shopping experience is what will differentiate retailers, and those that can optimise for this will most likely come out on top in a competitive environment – particularly with more consumer-friendly features such as click and collect.

However, it’s worth noting that great customer experience isn’t possible without an engaged, supported, and efficient workforce, so it’s important leaders prioritise employee needs alongside business success, and invest in the technologies that will optimise shift scheduling, forecasting, and employee engagement. By offering more support through this technology, retailers will improve staff retention. This is an essential piece of the puzzle for retailers navigating the unprecedented challenges the remainder of the year will bring.”

*Research by Fourth

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