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Consumer anxieties, transformation and the impact on retail staff

The BBC reports on some worrying data from the British Retail Consortium about the levels of abuse directed at retail staff. As we’ve observed in our recent ‘Changing Consumer Priorities’ research, consumers are increasingly being driven by health and financial anxieties. This is affecting their buying behaviour. It also appears to be influencing - in a small but growing number of cases - their behaviour on the shopfloor. Add to this the impact of theft and the industry is facing around £1.3bn of losses.

It may be that much of this tension will dissipate once restrictions are fully lifted and the retail experience returns to something like its pre-pandemic version. However, it’s abundantly clear that in a great many cases consumer habits have irreversibly changed. Calculating the extent of this is the next big challenge for retail. As if the sector didn’t have enough to cope with!

For many retailers this will mean making some potentially risky choices. If online stays at lockdown levels then enhancing this side of the customer experience makes sense. However, if it does not, investing in the people, processes and technology to make a permanent shift becomes deeply unattractive.

And, for those that do embark on wholescale transformation, there will be an impact on staff and staff morale. This will only compound existing anxieties further.

It’s going to be a delicate period for retail with some tricky business and leadership decisions required. Appealing to consumers, managing workforce and, in some cases, fundamentally changing business and operating models is going to be an act of complicated plate-spinning. Agility and empathy are going to be critical.

The BRC said shop workers faced aggression over everything from asking customers for age verifications to respecting Covid safety measures. It said, however, only 6% of incidents resulted in prosecution. The cost of retail crime has also risen, it said, with some £1.3bn of losses recorded mostly due to customer theft.


consumer priorities, retail, consumer products, mental health, leadership

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