Richard Pennycook to business leaders: play a part in restoring trust


Richard Pennycook, the former CEO of the Co-operative Group, has stepped up calls for industry leaders to focus on winning trust, speaking in a new British Retail Consortium podcast.

Speaking to Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC during The Retail Podcast, Pennycook encourages business leaders to play an active role in the future of communities across the UK:

“We are leaders and we need to play our part in restoring that breakdown of trust which seems to apply across society and we need to do that collectively. But it’s individually important for each of our businesses because if there is this general lack of respect or trust for business then it encourages our customers to just treat us as commodities.”

Pennycook also warns about the effect of structural change within the retail industry:

“The BRC’s reports started to signal some of the change coming and talked about it in terms of fewer but better jobs… The plus of that is those jobs are going to be so much more interesting and rewarding. We need to work at that – it won’t just happen – whether that’s really being serious about the apprenticeship levy and putting training back into our workplaces and again, having the conversation as an industry… The flipside of it is that we’re going to displace a lot of people and as a society, we have to think about what we’re going to do.”

“If you believe the numbers in terms of what’s coming with automation and artificial intelligence then we’re going to see 15 million people who don’t have traditional jobs to do over the next decade or so. What are they going to do? If we’re not careful, those high-streets and communities will be hollowed out.”

Pennycook’s comments follow his keynote speech at the BRC’s Annual Retail Industry Lecture in June.

The BCR’s Retail 2020 project outlines the industry vision for better and more productive jobs as emerging technologies continue to bring benefits to consumers and brands. Its research has set out how the rate of change within the retail workforce is set to quicken as the digital revolution reshapes the industry, more property leases come up for renewal and the cost of labour goes up, while the cost of technology goes down. These effects could mean there are as many as 900,000 fewer jobs in retail by 2025 but those that remain will be more productive and higher earning.

Listen to the podcast here: