This is my 12th blog in 2017 and I feel compelled to write about what is happening to the retail industry right now, an industry that has been part of my working life for over 30 years and as we head towards the end of 2017, I’m concerned for all the headlines the industry is getting, but not all is lost thankfully as someone once said ‘old ways won’t open doors’.
Let’s start with the bad news and get it out of the way. According to several articles and reports published recently, the retail industry, the 2nd largest employer in the UK is being severely impacted from all types of external disruptions; including for example the significant digital technology transformation within the industry; the ever-changing consumer shopping habits and political changes in the landscape, such as BREXIT. And apart from BREXIT, this is just a UK chaos situation, these challenges are being faced by retailers right across the globe.
Retail Week reported last month that the number of retail job cuts, natural attrition and, in some cases, redeployment has surpassed the 20,000 mark in 2017 in the UK.
In the chart above, more than four-fifths of the redundancies are from 2017 alone. And yet there were no redundancies revealed between March and August 2016 so the impact is certainly being felt across the industry right now. Around three-quarters of the redundancies affect store staff, which is the customer facing roles with the rest a mix between head office, distribution centre and call centre roles. Tesco alone has announced the highest number of cuts in the period, with 8,000 roles affected.
With demand from consumers still expecting continued low-cost products; retailers profit margins are under the worst level of strain that I can remember. And then there is the competition for a share of a consumer’s wallet with Amazon dominating the way we shop today and will shop in the future both digitally and more importantly physically when Amazon Go will launch.
The good news is this means on the other hand, higher-level roles are being created, particularly around software and data, to better adapt to changed shopping habits. A recent article was published in the Retail Week with commentary from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) that described the industry shifting from being less shelf-stacking, more science. Most of the new jobs demand “high levels of technical, scientific or creative skill”, reflecting the changes underway in retail according to the BRC’s Journey to better jobs study.
Speaking as someone with personal experience, having started my retail career stacking shelves back in 1986 and currently leading the retail industry market development in Europe for Qlik , a leading data analytics company, I can certainly vouch for anyone who is looking to shift their future career focus and opportunities whilst remaining attached to the industry.
Check out some of Qlik’s retail analytics apps that are today serving a purpose for many retailers across the globe that I have had the opportunity to be part of developing and seen built by many retail colleagues in some of the best and biggest retailers in the world.
There are still great opportunities for building a retail career and for that I am pleased that the retail industry is adapting and becoming more exciting to work in.