Future of Retail: Challenge or Opportunity?

Future of retail?

Has retail got a future? Yes.  Will it be the same as it was? No and yes.

We have been in retail for ever!  Jacqui was brought up in a family retail business.  Her earliest memories are of delivering groceries with her dad on a Saturday afternoon. Keith was a relative late comer.  His first Saturday job was a petrol pump attendant. Earliest memories were cold numb hands from filling cars with petrol all day.

We joined Jacqui’s family grocery business at a time when the future of grocery retail was the giant sheds of the supermarkets and ‘experts’ were predicting the total demise of petrol forecourts. Do we still have grocery and petrol forecourts? Yes.  Have they changed? Yes and no!

We were in at the beginning of ‘convenience retailing’.  We helped develop the concept.  Jacqui became Retail Vice Chair of the National Guild of SPAR representing convenience retailers from across the UK and working with government on multiple retail issues.  Convenience retailing became the future of independent grocers and independent petrol forecourts.  The multiple retailers were slow to react to this new sector but eventually created their own versions.  So the experts predicted the end of independent convenience stores. Has the convenience sector got a future? Yes.  Will it be the same as it was ? No and yes, in an ironic twist an independent convenience retailers ( Mohsin and Zuber Issa) have now bought ASDA.

Retail is community…

Good retail, whatever it size or product, is embedded in its community.  Our proudest moment was been awarded the UK National Neighbourhood Store Award.  Good retail reaches out to  its customers, its community and its suppliers.  That’s why Tescos and all the other large grocery retailers CSR policies shout about their social impact.  It is not a coincidence that ‘community focused’ large grocery chains have survived whilst non community focused fashion retailers such as Arcadia have not.

Retail does not happen in a vacuum.  Cathy Parker of The Institute of Place Management is constantly driving the message home that the high street is a community that survives if it meets the specific needs of its ecosystem.

Online shopping is growing because it creates an online community of buyers and sellers that understand each others needs.  At the same time speciality shops are flourishing.  Holly Shackleton of the Speciality Food Magazine regularly shines a torch on the growth of this sector.

James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores advocates that good local retail when it is allowed to open belongs to its local community.  We captured many heart warming stories of the difference local retailers made during the lockdowns. We were extremely proud when one of them was recognised in the Queens New Years  Honours List.  It’s a shame that there wasn’t more recognition for the thousands of local retailers who stepped up to the plate.

Do community retailers have a future? Yes. Will it be the same as it was? Yes they will still be part of their community and no, the ways they interact with their community will change and their definition of local will embrace an online community.

Challenges or opportunities?

Life is full of change.  Change is always a challenge and an opportunity.  We sold our retail business a few years ago and the challenge was we had no qualification to prove we were retailers.   This led to the opportunity to complete a Masters Degree in Business Management.

From the Masters degree, we were then given huge opportunities to work within the HE Sector.  Jacqui focused on family businesses, Keith focused on the supply chain.  We started PhDs, we worked with government, we lectured, presented conference papers, we developed business programmes and we missed business!

So we started the Guild and went back to working directly with businesses.

One of our first roles as Thomas Jardine & Co was to advise a group of small retailers on how to stop a giant Tesco store been built on the edge of their market town.  We are not anti Tesco, we just want retail to have a level playing field.  Our role was to demonstrate to the local decision makers the depth and impact of the supply chains to the local retail community.  The plans for Tesco didn’t go ahead and it’s satisfying to see how well these local supply chains served the local community during lock down.

As retail develops all retail models face challenges.  If the retailer does not adapt to these challenges then a new retailer will see the opportunity and can then eventually replace the old retailer.  If the retailer adapts and changes to the new community challenges then they have a future but they will have changed. The retail market is now adapting to a post lock down world (Retail Gazette).

Solving challenges and opportunities.

Retail is about changing to the needs of your community. The best way to solve a challenge or take an opportunity is to do something about it.  The hardest thing is deciding what to do and then sticking to it.

The best way of thinking and doing is committing to a peer group. By sharing your thoughts and actions with a group of peers you will both decide what to do and then do it.  It is that simple.  Find a group of peers and get on with it.  We did this via the National Guild of SPAR.  What’s more, we are still doing this with the businesses we work with.  We are starting new peer groups with the Cumbria Peer to Peer Network.  The best thing is that places (for qualifying businesses) are fully funded by the Cumbria LEP.  If you are a retailer and want to share your experiences with us and other businesses that are part of your community then do get in touch.

 

 

 


Three hats and flexible working

Flexible working…the basic questions

Paul Scully the Small Business Minister has four basic questions he needed answered:

What are the main advantages and challenges of moving to a four-day work week post-pandemic?

How are businesses going to ensure that remote working remains a viable option once people can return to offices?

How has Covid-19 impacted the ability for small businesses to offer job shares, part time roles and flexitime?

What can Government do to support SMEs in adopting flexible working policies?

Bringing the conversation to the table

So Anthony Impey CEO of Be the Business invited a small group of businesses to talk to Paul .

Thomas Jardines Jacqui Jackson was joined by Greg O’Brien AM Support Services, Matt CarrCarrs Pasties, Sarah Poynter Arden Engraving at Arden Dies and Engraving, and Tom Matthew Dunsters Farm.

So why three hats? (Thomas Jardine’s view)

For us, future working is all about flexible working, the four day working week and hybrid working.

Our three hats come from experiences closest to us.  Firstly flexible working in coworking space. Massively impacted by lockdown period of work form home and are now ready to embrace hybrid working to their advantage.

Secondly cafes, hospitality and small scale food production. Predominately all working part time , working very flexibly across seven days.  No need particularly for hybrid working but wherever hybrid working comes in they are using coworking space to work from rather than investing in expensive office space.

Thirdly larger scale manufacturing.  Working across five days of production where a four day working week would massively impact them.  Predominately full time, how do they reconcile a for day working week over a five day production period?

It’s complicated (business discussion)

Business has significant shortages in quite a lot of sectors and we need a workforce that can do things as well as be at home

So a four day working week needs to be part of seven days.  Discussion was around how complicated work is . How diverse business needs in the UK are. How people work, most people would choose to work Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday , but what about the other days of the week?

Lack of skills (like drivers) means business are paying more for skilled workers.  So maybe a four day working week (with the pay of a five day week)  is a way of keeping costs the same and giving workers more time off.

Young people who really do value the time  at home with their family. As their families grow they would love a four day working week. So how do we get this to work in as many of our worlds as possible without creating a two tier system in a workforce that is already challenged?

Is now the time to embrace flexible working?

There is the argument that the ground isn’t firm yet, we are quite exhausted by all the change that’s gone on around us, why do we need to do this now? Can we wait a bit longer to see how the land will lie?  Or is this exactly the right opportunity because there’s been such change and let’s embrace this change fully.

As Thomas Jardine and Co we work with businesses facing change and understand that there is not one answer that fits all.  The best any of us can do is get the answer that works for ourselves. As The Guild we have created and are constantly adapting and improving a space that suits the hybrid working requirements of our incredible businesses and professionals.


Zero Carbon and the Food Supply Chain

Zero Carbon and us

We are all aware of the potential impact of CO2 emissions.  Most of us have a level of concern and most of us are doing our bit to reduce it.  Individual actions often feel too insignificant to matter and this often justifies inaction.  We forget that ‘us’ is made of individuals and eventually individual actions cause change (unfortunately that’s how we got to where we are now).

CO2 emissions are all around us.  Working with Lancaster University and the ECO-I project we’re (Thomas Jardine & Co), looking at pioneering a low carbon food and drink sector in Cumbria.

 

ECO-I

This ECO-I project has brought together a group of Cumbrian Businesses who really want to make a difference to the ‘Net Zero’ ambition in the food and drink supply chain and catalyse change.  The first two days facilitated by Angela Moore and Jacqui Jackson brought the group together to look at the challenges they face and introduce them to how we could find some solutions over the coming months.  This included looking at the challenges the current food supply chain poses to the low carbon agenda. It was backed up with thinking about how the food & drink supply chain ecosystem could offer solutions to those challenges.

Food Supply Chain: some thought provoking ‘agitation’….

Mike Berners-Lee (author of ‘There is no planet B‘ ) shared with the ECO-I cohort his thoughts on the main causes of CO2 emission in the food supply chain.  Here’s his main points:

The world produces 2.5 times the amount of calories we need!

Stop giving good calories to animals and shift from over consumption of meat!

Fishing needs to be properly regulated!

Food miles is not clear cut…importing food by sea can be better than growing it locally!

Main source of food ‘waste’ is  feeding animals and consumer waste, retail waste in advanced economies comes third to these!

 

Food Supply Chain: using its ecosystem to find solutions

Chris Ford has a raft of experience in encouraging multiple stakeholders to achieve change. He offered the cohort a few thoughts and agitations to help them over the coming months:

The end is usually not visible at the start!

Look at outside and inside change!

Become a magnet!

Develop energy in connection cycles!

Find place based solutions!

We have a shared fate!

Marginal gains or revolution!

Then landed the statement: ‘what if we become the leaders of innovation to NET ZERO for the Food and Drink Sector in Cumbria’…..the journey begins….