Retailers risk losing out from London 2012 Olympic Games opportunity

BT: retailers risk being unprepared for Olympics

BT: retailers risk being unprepared for Olympics

Nearly two thirds of UK retailers (64%) are expecting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will bring a much needed boost to their sales, according to new research published by BT.

However, despite the retail sector being one of the most directly affected by the Games, over a third (34%) of retailers run the risk of not capitalising on the economic opportunity by making basic of preparations such as plans to deal with staff absenteeism or adapting their delivery schedules, BT claims.

The BT study surveyed 1,200 organisations of varying sizes nationwide across all sectors. It found businesses had a generally positive outlook for the Games despite tough economic conditions.

One in six retailers are anticipating increased demand from customers, while nearly half (47%) expect new international business opportunities both during and after the Games, said BT. In response, the sector is set to be one of the strongest in offering new employment opportunities, with 32% planning on expanding sales capacity and 40% of retailers planning to hire extra temporary staff.

While the predicted extra million extra visitors is a major opportunity for retailers across the country, the majority (84%) do have concerns about negative knock-on effects, the study found. Issues like unpredictable dips or surges in demand, staff attendance and employee productivity are amongst the top concerns, BT said.

During the Games, maintaining high customer service levels will be critical, yet only 28% of retailers are planning to increase call centre capacity and only 10% plan to enhance multi-lingual facilities, which could see missed sales opportunities from international visitors, according to BT.

Staffing will be a key challenge for retailers, as they strive to cope with increased footfall in some areas, said BT. Its survey reveals over a third (34%) have no plans to prevent or reduce the impact of lower staff numbers.

Retail, however, is one of the most experienced sectors in gearing up to take advantage of significant seasonal and sporting events, said BT. The uniqueness of the challenges associated with London 2012 are reflected in the fact 41% of retailers believe the unpredictability of dips and surges in customer demand will be one of their key challenges and nearly a quarter (23%) are planning to enhance their supply chain management, it said.

Despite this, only 14% of retailers have introduced new systems or technology to enable them to manage their supply chain in a more flexible way. Additionally, only 11% plan to collaborate with other retailers or logistics providers to share loads or delivery spots, which could ease the pressure.

Baroness Jo Valentine, CEO London First, said: “London 2012 will present many opportunities to boost economic recovery and a great deal of planning has gone into providing support for business of all sizes, as well as information on how to minimise disruption. There’s still some work to be done but I would urge businesses to talk to their suppliers and customers now so they can be sure of being ready to make the most of this fantastic event.”

Emer Timmons, president, BT Global Services UK, said: “Despite the tough economic climate, we can tell from our own customers that London 2012 presents both challenges and opportunities for retailers. But success or failure depends on how ready they are. There’s still time to get plans in place, but with less than seven months to go, we do urge all organisations to begin preparations now or miss out on the economic benefits.”