Dame Sharon White, the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, is currently looking at new retail opportunities beyond the department store and Waitrose Food Halls. This comes as sales across the group are predicted to drop by 35% in 2020, under a worst-case scenario forecast; and 14,000 staff have been furloughed in the last two months.
Many retailers have looked towards a diversification of their service offering in order to remain competitive during periods of crisis – such as the current COVID-19 pandemic – and Dame White has identified the service industry to help make her in-store offering ‘Amazon-proof.’ However, there are a number of things that SMEs and other businesses can learn from the retail and food giants.
Reece Tomlinson, CEO and founder of financial advisers for the global SME arena, RWT Growth, has given his thoughts on why this could be the time for businesses to start metamorphosing: “This period of history is showing the economy where there is bloat, waste and unnecessary effort spent. Many businesses have laid off or furloughed potentially thousands of staff as others thrive as essential or keyworkers. For some sectors and business leaders in those spaces, now is the time to future-proof their service offering against disruptive events and crises.
“For retailers, those who did not have an e-commerce arm pre-COVID-19 should be engaging that portion of the business rapidly using new digital marketing techniques and sales events to move with the new direction of the economy. Many traditional businesses may have been reluctant to invest in new services or processes, but, post-COVID-19, the economy will truly enter the fourth industrial revolution.
“Businesses that do not use this opportunity to re-assess their business model and plan for, quite literally, every eventuality will find the market incredibly difficult to navigate in the coming months and years. We may even see some larger businesses begin to swallow up seemingly unrelated companies to diversify their offering; spreading their bets almost. COVID-19 will be a marked period in the history of the world’s economy in terms of evolution and diversification against future fiscal disruptive events.”