Sales declining – don’t panic, say analysts

The BRC’s latest sales trends figures make dismal reading. Two leading analysts give us their take on what it all means for retailers as we approach the peak selling period

The latest BRC KPMG Retail Sales Monitor shows a record decline in October for non-food sales. However, Salmon global head of consultancy and innovation Hugh Fletcher (pictured top) has urged retailers not to worry just yet with the Black Friday peak around the corner, suggesting they should start the sales sooner rather than later.

He commented: “The new figures don’t make for good reading for retailers across the country. At a time when wallets are being squeezed and business uncertainty is rife, retailers need to ensure they are offering consumers enticing deals and competitive prices with a speedy service to boot. While the warm October weather has contributed to sluggish traditional winter sales, companies need to ensure they retain a strong multichannel approach to sustain growth and increase sales; combining a strong off-line offering in the high street with an equally robust online approach should ease the pressure on many retailers.

“The rest of the year should hopefully bear more fruit, as we begin to approach the Black Friday ‘peak’ weeks. A strong focus on digital and innovation will be vital for consumers wanting a quick and convenient service – the figures are suggesting, after all, a shift from buying items they want to buying items they need. As consumers increasingly flock online to purchase goods, retailers should be looking to start Black Friday sales sooner, rather than later to boost the slump in non-food sales, perhaps by even creating their own ‘peak days’ to stave off the competition from Black Friday stalwarts such as Amazon. The next month or so will be a game-changer for many in the retail business.”

Olga Kotsur
Olga Kotsur

Peaks and troughs in sales do not mean that all is lost, according to Olga Kotsur, co-founder and chief executive at retail app developer Mercaux. She said: “The latest figures from BRC once again shed light on a struggling off-line retail world. Shoppers are easily influenced by factors such as weather, which are hard to predict and plan for, so ups and downs are to be expected. However, it’s not impossible – retailers can take a more strategic approach to combat such external circumstances. It’s just a case of evolving the way they work.

“For years now, retailers have struggled to make use of the data they have, and often fail to turn it into actionable information. Where it once was OK not to make best use of the data they had, in the modern day of digital commerce, it is unacceptable for retailers not to harness their data to improve their customer experience.

“With the right tools in place, data – that could be previous purchases from individual customers, real-time stock information at each store, or perhaps real-time sales data from across the UK – can be turned into actionable insights for sales assistants and shoppers alike. It will unlock visibility of fast-selling, and non-selling, items, assess how well certain stores are performing and it can help shoppers themselves to enjoy a more seamless in-store experience. It can also, for HQ, act as a crystal ball – taking social media data to spot future trends before they hit.

“For example, if a celebrity is spotted with a certain handbag, or if the weather is particularly hot, cold or rainy, data should be fed into retailer’s systems and suggest ways they can take advantage – ensuring promotions and stock levels are adapted to take full advantage of that impending trend. As well as this, retailers can also change their products on offer and in the display in real-time, based on weather and other trends. It’s this synced-up, real-time world that retailers can be part of, and it’s easier than it sounds. Technology is sparking evolution not revolution, but it will open the door to the retail future.”