27 Oct 2020

Exploring UK retail with Holly Worthington, Modern Retail

Exploring UK retail with Holly Worthington, Modern Retail

Ahead of the Good Retail Awards, we sat down with Modern Retail's Holly Worthington to get her view on the industry right now. 

holly worthington content editor modern retail From your perspective, how has the coronavirus pandemic changed the UK retail space?

Recent months have changed the way consumers are shopping and interacting with retailers. There’s been an obvious shift towards ecommerce and convenience which has required retailers to rethink their strategies. Retailers are having to consider instore safety more than ever before, while balancing this with a valuable experience for shoppers. I feel it’s become more about simplicity, communication and necessity in recent months.

While uncertainty has made it a challenging year for retailers, those that have invested in their team, understood their customers and created a unique and memorable experience have continued to thrive.

How do you think retail in the longer term will be affected by the pandemic? Will changes stick?

The pandemic has definitely accelerated the growth that we were already seeing in ecommerce and the importance of having a digital presence. We’ve seen retailers have no choice but to invest in a functional website and reconsider their online offering, creating more of an omnichannel presence. Consumers of all ages are getting used to online shopping or using the internet to check stock availability and I believe these changes are likely to stay.

That’s not to say that this will replace the high street, as physical stores still play a vital role in offering an irreplaceable experience, allowing customers to interact with products and talk to knowledgeable members of staff, working perfectly alongside online transactions.

As lockdowns are eased, I expect more customers will return to shop instore, however many of the changes we have seen are here to stay. The reason for this is that consumers are now getting used to innovative and frictionless combinations of online and offline experiences.

Do you think support for local indies and the Shop Local trend will continue?

We’ve seen such fantastic support for independents and local retailers and I expect this trend to continue. There’s been a real community feel in recent months as locals have tried to support those nearby. This ties in brilliantly with the growing focus on ethical and local retail, helping retailers and shoppers to reduce their carbon footprint while supporting their local community.

What advice do you have for retailers looking to refuel their businesses in 2021 and beyond?

My first piece of advice is to be as agile as possible and create contingency plans. Being able to adapt as quickly as required will be essential in staying ahead of trends and making the most of opportunities. There are so many great, free resources that can help retailers and their teams to learn new skills and put them to great use in the coming months.

Communication will be key for 2021 and beyond, whether this is instore, in newsletters, on your website, on social media, or through signage. Retailers should use their platforms to communicate with their customers, sharing exciting news, engaging in conversation and asking for feedback. This will help to grow a loyal customer base.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, designing a seamless process between online and instore, keeping experience consistent across all channels and enabling customers to shop in whichever ways they prefer.

Finally, know your purpose and values. Take time to understand exactly what makes you stand out from other retailers and keep improving on this. Carry out market research, ask for opinions and make sure you deliver on your promises.

During the lockdown we used our #InspiredByKindness campaign to celebrate acts of positivity and kindness from across the industry – were there any retailers or brands that inspired you during the lockdown?

So many retailers and brands demonstrated a great spirit throughout the lockdown. John Lewis donated care packages to NHS workers, Barbour used its manufacturing capabilities to make PPE instead of their usual clothing and Brewdog shipped more than 100,000 units of hand sanitiser to the NHS for free. On a local level, there were countless examples of selfless businesses helping in the community, with many offering packages of masks and hand sanitiser to locals, or delivering to vulnerable customers’ homes.

Do you have any words of positivity for our readers?

The world of retail has evolved fantastically amidst the challenges of this year and many of these adaptations will enable retailers to go from strength to strength moving forwards. While it may have taken time and investment to develop new processes and find new ways of working, retailers should be proud of the work they’ve done and the impact they have had in communities around the UK. I believe we’re about to embark on the most exciting journey to date in the history of retail!

Find out more about Modern Retail here

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