Trends 2020: The future of retail work

Recognition that store staff are the front line troops in the battle for the hearts and minds of the customer has led to a number of initiatives from retailers, workforce tech companies and industry bodies.

These are now real signs that the store is getting close to assuming a much stronger role in an industry that has been utterly transformed by digital retail and changing consumer habits.

  1. Stories like this are becoming more common. Morrisons is getting rid of 3,000 department managers but creating 7,000 new hourly-paid roles – resulting in a net 4,000 new jobs – across its 500 stores. Tesco stripped out middle management a few years ago, partly due to the forward march of automation across the supply chain, but maintained store staff numbers. And Wal-Mart in the US, in its presentation at NRF in January, revealed that it was paying some staff higher wages and this had led to a huge rise in productivity in terms of customer service.
  2. The BRC is running an event called Building your Future Workforce on March 10 to talk about how to equip retailers to create a workforce fit for the future – with new roles, new skills and ways of working.
  3. Various initiatives from the tech industry are providing the tools that staff and store managers will need to concentrate on serving customers by releasing them from general management tasks that can be increasingly automated. The new generation of mobile POS vendors envisage a future where transactions and interactions can be managed on the fly, and no longer tied to a fixed POS. This then liberates both staff and customers from the store itself. Do I believe that a representative from Gucci may one day be selling shoes in the foyer of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel? Not sure, but tech can surely handle it right now, and store staff who might otherwise be idle in a store can get out and sell.
  4. Human Capital Management now embraces a range of processes that were once separate and managed across departments. The overlap between HR and Operations might mean some political upheaval to start with but over time, there will be more efficient management of the employee and give them greater involvement in their roles and careers. From the tech point of view, Human Capital Management is becoming a platform on which point solutions can add value while being tightly integrated into the bigger picture. Disruptors and incumbents can therefore collaborate for the greater good rather than compete.
  5. This is not just all about the store. Manhattan Associates describes scenarios where retailers have total insight into stock, customers and orders and are therefore able to respond, where required, in much more personal ways for both service and delivery. The old problem was that a customer might latch onto a call centre operator to help them out where that operator had very limited access to order details or additional resources to get it processed. Now, they have all the tools and data at their fingertips to enable the supply chain, the store, the warehouse or logistics to get it done. Two things happened here; staff gave a higher return on the investment made in them, and they get more rewarding roles that motivated them to serve better.
The BRC’s event Building your Future Workforce takes place on March 10, 2020 

17:30 – 20:30 | America Square Conference Centre, London EC3N 2LB


CEO of Fieldworks Marketing and Chairman of Retail Connections


Country HR Manager, IKEA UK & Ireland


Chief Executive, BRC

BRC Learning Live chris Field












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