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‘Retail will emerge stronger than ever before’

“Retail will emerge stronger than ever before.”

That was the rallying cry from Luke Tugby, editor of Retail Week, during his welcome address at Retail Week Live yesterday (13 October).

The theme of the conference – which is also running today (14 October) at Magazine London – is ‘serving tomorrow’s consumers today’ and the secret to doing that effectively, Luke told retailers, lies in more than simply selling stuff.

“It will mean offering your customers a personalised and consistent service across all channels; instilling a culture that promotes social mobility, diversity and inclusion; creating on-line and in-store communities that help your customers live healthier, happier lives; investing in technologies that simplify and speed up the shopping experience and, perhaps most importantly, putting people and the planet before profit,” he commented.

“We’re not out of the Covid-19 woods just yet. The red tape associated with Brexit will put stress on supply chains for years to come. The labour shortage will impact levels of customer service and availability well beyond Christmas. And the government is offering little by way of encouragement to the sector, be that in its stance on temporary visas, or its consistent can-kicking on business rates reform.

“Yet, despite those headwinds, I really do believe that retail will emerge stronger than ever before.”

Other speakers included IKEA’s chief sustainability officer Peter Jelkeby, who confirmed that the UK will see more IKEA stores on its high streets, plus Harvey Nichols’ ceo Manju Malhotra that the introduction of wellness and beauty services such as facial acupuncture and Botox was encouraging customers to make a visit to the store “part of their daily lives.”

Meanwhile, the Co-op’s ceo Steve Murrells presented the opening keynote and told the audience: “If we genuinely want to build back Britain different and better, then this must be a decade of collective action, a decade that benefits all communities across the UK.”

We can and should take forward “important lessons” from the pandemic, he said, including the realisation that cooperation is not just playing it nice, but also makes good commercial sense. He pointed to a future of collaboration and cooperation as the route to solving climate change and social mobility.

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