As it is known in the retail industry, the ‘golden quarter’ of October-December often comes to the aid of many retail businesses hoping to end the year with strong sales. This year, with retailers and employees battling the cost of living crisis, the importance of protecting both business and employee finances could seldom be higher.
Retailers will need to stay nimble and open-minded to providing support where necessary for their workforce – if they intend to hold onto their employees throughout the festive season and provide the level of quality customer service that is expected these days.
Ahead of this crucial time of the retail calendar, Fourth surveyed retail business leaders, employees and consumers to garner the sentiment within the industry, and how all are coping with the cost-of-living crisis and fears of a lengthy recession. The results paint an interesting picture for the remainder of the year.
Reinvigorating the retail workforce with confidence ahead of the festive season
Our latest data found that with the looming recession and Covid cases beginning to climb as we head into winter, retail employees’ biggest worries are understaffing due to others missing shifts (44%) and job losses and redundancies (42%). With this level of uncertainty prevalent throughout retail workforces, retail leaders must prioritise providing their staff with financial stability throughout the winter and help where possible to quell doubts in their minds over their job security amidst the worries of a deep recession.
When it comes to what matters most to retail employees, the data shows retail workers feel most supported by payroll and associated benefits (42%), overall communication levels (38%) and mental health support (37%). These priorities are indicative of a retail workforce that has undergone years of struggle and uncertainty, which business leaders must combat throughout the winter if they intend to hold onto their staff for the crucial festive season.
The necessity for retailers to stand out and provide value is even more important given the impact of the cost of living crisis slimming the wallets of consumers up and down the country. This can be seen clearly in our latest data, with consumers expecting to spend less on holidays (28%), clothes and shoes (26%), and luxury items (25%) this year.
So where do retail leaders’ priorities currently lie this winter?
The data shows that retail leaders are looking to increase the presence of technology, both in-store and back of house. When asked about the future of the high street and retail’s recovery, retail leaders believe the following technologies as the most important to business success in the next year:
- Click & Collect services (30%)
- eCommerce presence (28%)
- Store management (I.e. scheduling and productivity optimisation) (27%)
This mix of technology, customer-facing and employee-facing, shows the positive impact that RetailTech is having on the industry. Refreshingly, retail leaders aren’t solely focussed on improving the customer experience but also see the value in streamlining the working experiences of their employees. Furthermore, when asked which technologies would most likely bring a positive impact to their work, retail employees stated both Click&Collect and increased technology automation (self-checkout, mobile POS).
This reassuringly demonstrates that both retail leaders and their employees are on the same page when it comes to what could expedite their daily processes.
With a plan of action to implement greater technology in the coming months, retail employees can expect to reap the benefits in a number of ways. Advanced wage technology such as earned wage access is giving employees greater control of their finances at a time when they need it most. Furthermore, greater transparency in scheduling and communication means that retail employers can help dispel financial stress for employees. Our research shows 68% of retail employees would benefit from being able to flag availability in advance via a HR/scheduling portal.
With the ongoing crisis impacting employees’ and customers’ wallets, retailers must be proactive in reassuring their staff that their welfare is at the heart of their business and technology can ensure this in the long-term.