The Retailer Summer Edition_2020

UK retail leads with adaptability, resilience and compassion Helen Dickinson OBE Chief Executive British Retail Consortium

In recent years, we have been talking about the ‘unprecedented’ change taking place across our industry - driven by changing customer needs and expectations and the rapid rise in digitisation and automation. The pace and nature of change was unprecedented. Until COVID-19. COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges already facing retail and accelerated longer-term changes in consumer trends and behaviours. Many retailers have been quick to invest, find new ways of reaching out to and serving customers during the crisis. Many others are taking the learning – accelerating their online and omni-channel presence and innovating to ensure the in-store experience continues to appeal to and meet customer needs. UK retail has also built up a strong reputation during the crisis with retailers demonstrating adaptability, resilience and compassion - something we should recognise now more than ever. Hardworking staff have kept our shelves stocked and the nation fed. They have spent nights filling vans and lorries. They have driven to our homes and our local stores to get us the goods we need. They have kept websites going and been a lifeline to those isolated or alone in these last few difficult months. The reopening of stores has been an important first step towards a ‘new normal’. We are pushing Government for ways in which consumer demand can be boosted – ensuring jobs are supported and that our industry can play its part in the rebuilding of our economy. We are an industry worth fighting for. Three million people work in retail – making it Britain’s largest sector employer – with shops contributing £17 billion a year in business taxes. But more than that, every purchase from a shop supports manufacturing jobs, drivers, distribution hub staff, marketing teams and more. Every high street supports coffee shops, hairdressers, restaurants, pubs and a multitude of other services that make it the social epicentre of our lives. The retail industry has always been able to innovate and overcome and a compelling case can be made for it to continue to do so. With Mike Coupe, former CE of Sainsbury’s, and Lisa Hooker, UK Consumer Markets Leader at PwC, we’ll be honing in on what recovery and regrowth can look like for our industry at our Annual Retail Industry Lecture on 4 November. Join us - physically or virtually - this year. I look forward to ‘seeing’ you there.

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