Insights

Weather hits high street summer trade

Retail Sales Director
Valtech

August 19, 2015

"Retailers have been struck by the worst summer since 2009 as bad weather, holidays and uncertainty over interest rates have kept shoppers away from the high street.” Drapers – 7th August 2015. 

What, and this is news..? I spent 9 years in retail battling something I had absolutely no control over.. The British weather. How could I ever forecast and anticipate a buying season six months in advance without a crystal ball? As I recall very vividly, and yes the memories are still very fresh..my business and I were kicked harshly from behind by every single British season.. I fondly remember the year my youngest son was born August 2007, that summer it rained every single day, torrentially. I can recall thinking if my baby were a girl then I should name her Rainey, luckily it was a boy and he was named Christopher with no reference to the weather! So what is the future for British retailing, when there is no ability to forecast or to plan? How do retailers buy for a public that wears boots and jumpers in the summer and doesn’t need a coat in the winter..?

Buying for the fashion industry is incredibly hard. Its a job born out of an understanding of what the general public “might” want to buy and taking into account several uncontrollable factors. Even when faced with a range of designer footwear as I was, and having to put together a story of, say, twelve styles in a range from a brand, it was always blatantly obvious which three styles would make you the money and which nine would not. Yet the nine had to be bought so that you appeared to be giving your customers choice, a range. It was almost like placing bets on horses with three legs so obvious was the loss from conception.

So with all of these challenges, what is the future for British retail..? Just how long can BBQ and garden furniture companies afford to trade..?

I still believe in this incredibly exciting digital age that behind each sale is a human experience

Having lived and breathed it for nine years I feel the retailers exasperation. I truly feel for them. The only way retail can survive, and I said this 10 years ago too when I was trying to to “persuade” retailers that e-commerce really was nothing to be frightened of and it was something they really should do - yes I really did come across those objections, is that e-commerce and the digital customer experience must become core to their business, if it’s not already. On top of this total company digital buy in, businesses must personalise the whole experience. Take the store to the person on the device. Know your customer totally and utterly and communicate with them in a truly personal way. Call them, pick up the phone, thank them as a human for their well earned money, online and offline.

At Valtech we talk constantly to retailers around “the single view of the customer” and using data in an agile way. The holy-grail of the single view is still something only a few of the most advanced retailers have achieved. Knowing your customer at every single touch point and communicating with them precisely at the right time presenting the products you know they want and will buy. The utilisation of platforms such as Sitecore with their philosophy of making your website customer centric and putting experience at the heart of everything you do will help you to create customers for life. But it doesn’t end there. Online and offline truly work hand in hand. I know that, I’ve been there.

I still believe in this incredibly exciting digital age that behind each sale is a human experience too. There is a life for the high street, if it can accept that digital is at the heart of everything they do.

As for the buying, I think there is a gap in the market for crystal balls... Anyone got one?