“Retailers need to match the modern shopper’s expectations”

New BRC / KPMG report causes concern for Christmas retail sales.
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BRC and KPMG have released their latest sales monitor, revealing that retail sales fell by 0.2% on a like-for-like basis in September, compared to the same month in 2017.

With total sales also falling from 1.3% in August to 0.7% in September, there are major concerns that retailers will continue to suffer during the Christmas period.

"The final golden quarter of the year marks the ultimate test for many players, but retailers must also successfully navigate the upcoming government Budget, Black Friday, Christmas, and of course Brexit," warned KPMG’s UK head of retail Paul Martin.

With the BRC indicating that the latest figures revealed the lowest growth rate since October 2017, what retailers do to try to get things back on track?

Rob Meakin, managing director of Loyalty Pro, believes matching the modern shopper’s expectations could go some way to helping the high street improve sales over the Christmas period.

“It was a successful first half of 2018 as landmark events such as the World Cup and summer heatwave contributed to footfall and consumer spend, but there is real concern from these latest figures that retailers will continue to suffer into the Christmas period,” said Meakin.

“Good weather and national sports events alone cannot be enough to sustain any large or small business all year round, and with a golden period of “special dates” on the horizon (Halloween, Black Friday, Christmas), retailers will need all bases covered to overcome economic uncertainty, tightened purse strings and a lack of consumer hunger.”

Meakin believes that all the talk of the “death of the high street” is not only premature but misleading.

“The high street can thrive, but consumers need a reason or incentive to keep coming back from January right the way through to December.

“To sustain continued footfall, retailers need to match the modern shopper’s expectations. The 2018 consumer increasingly wants a personal experience, whether that’s in day-to-day product deals or seasonal loyalty offers.

“Tapping into the ‘membership economy’ – tailored deals and rewards that are unique to each shopper – can add instant value to the overall experience and build a relationship that’s based on actual insight, not guess work,” he suggests.

“It’s not only what the customer expects, but this type of commitment will help retailers prosper during turbulent periods; Boots is an example of a retailer that does this well, for example, offering customers deals based on previous purchasing habits throughout the year. Consumers expect nothing less, and retailers should aspire to nothing more.”

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