With the well documented struggles of many big-name retailers – the latest collapses of note including Toys R Us and Maplins – it would be easy to write off the traditional retail sector as either ailing or failing.
However, mainstream news will only cover the big name collapses which skews perception of this sector somewhat. To get the full picture, Executive Grapevine spoke exclusively with Nina Glass, an expert in the areas of consumer and B2B services at Eric Salmon & Partners, who explained why, despite challenges, there are unique opportunities for those in retail who are open to change.
Firstly, should we be writing off the retail sector as done with?
There have been a number of articles written lately about the struggles within the UK retail landscape. Companies have been pressurised by the increases in cost of goods generated by the fall in the GBP, increases in wage prompted by the ‘living wage’ and the continued low consumer confidence indices. There is no doubt that there is reason for concern.
However, what we at Eric Salmon & Partners have also been witnessing – even in many of the organisations which have been challenged – is a renewal or rebirth and belief in the future.
What does this mean for Search firms who work with retail partners then?
We have been working with many, not only in our core executive search capacity but also across the organisational design and development spectrum, as Board and Executive teams are girding their loins, readying themselves for a ‘new dawn.’ It’s been fascinating to see the intertwining of retail and leisure with the experiential quality of the shopping experience becoming much more front and centre to the agenda.
Our projects have included organisational redesign work, which includes restructure and appointment of new or alternative leaders who thrive in more agile environments and are open to more flexible career plans – with collaboration key within this.
What are the most innovative retail businesses doing?
We have worked with retailers who are changing their governance, moving away from rigid parameters for approvals and bureaucracy to progress innovation and they are doing so at pace. There is recognition that, to be agile, one has to eliminate the hurdles and very actively live and breathe empowerment. Of course, this means being open to the risk that entails and creating a culture that supports this. It has been an interesting evolution in many of our retail clients’ organisational models.
And, with Millennials and Gen-Z’s becoming, in 2018, the majority of the workforce, there is increased need in responding to their interests and approach. Restrictive career paths, without flexibility (including aspects not only such as flexible hours and work-from-home options but also wage reduction for extra holidays, sabbatical options, etc) will impede recruitment or retention of top talent. Failure to change, our clients have realised, puts them at odds with sustained business development and growth.