Irwin Mitchell: omni-channel and experiential ‘key to retail’s future success’

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Providing quality unique experiences to consumers and ensuring online and offline presences are joined up will be vital to the future of many retailers in the coming years, according to a new report analysing trends in the sector.

Produced by national law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), the Consumer Powerhouse special report provides an estimate of GVA* growth and job creation within key cities across the UK with a specific focus on the retail, leisure, tourism and food and drink industries.

Boosted by growth in the retail sector, the report found that Exeter is expected to see its consumer economy grow the fastest this year, followed by Bristol and Edinburgh.

Published this month, the report also features specific analysis on the retail sector and has revealed how, despite below-average year-on-year retail sales volumes growth of 1.1% in March 2018, the industry still accounts for a significant proportion of the UK’s GDP.

With footfall data showing a general decline in the number of people visiting high streets and shopping centres across the UK, the study revealed that a key driver behind the positive retail volumes growth was online shopping. Online retail annual growth has been above 10% for almost every month in the past five years.

Looking ahead, the report outlined how retailers need to embrace both experiential and omnichannel retail to encourage interactions with consumers.

Examples of experiential activity could include hosting an activity or event to entice people into a store, while the report added that the key to omnichannel is ensuring a seamless shopping experience whether consumers are in a shop, on a laptop or a smartphone.

Victoria Brackett, chief executive of Irwin Mitchell’s Business Legal Services division, said: “As we have seen throughout this report, the retail sector is a key driver for economic growth here in the UK and across the world. The sector is however facing significant disruption, but it’s not Armageddon as some commentators have suggested, rather a case of re-invention.

“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The sector is growing at a steady rate and consumer confidence is generally on the rise and people generally having more disposable income to spend on themselves. However, consumer businesses must constantly invest and innovate to remain relevant and adapt to the new consumer.”

Josie Dent, economist at Cebr said: “Retail sales growth has been sluggish in 2018, especially for in-store purchases. While growth remains robust for online shopping, bricks-and-mortar stores need to draw people in with new and exciting experiences if they hope to see a pickup in purchases.”