What does the buying and merchandising landscape look like for 2016?

Throughout 2015 the continued growth of the discount retailer, e-commerce, the Black Friday effect and unseasonably warm weather meant that the market yielded mixed results, proving a challenge across the board. Predicting the landscape for 2016 is tough but the key for retailers will be to understand the consumer mindset and operate in a way to meet these demands.

A new customer mindset

Reading Retail Week recently, an article written by Simon Hathaway got me thinking about where the consumer mindset is:
 “People do not care about online, bricks and mortar or m-commerce. They want to move seamlessly between environments, platforms and devices to fulfil their shopping missions.
They don’t care if something is advertising or design, shopper-marketing or promotion, social or customer relationship marketing, they simply want the best experience.
Know your customer and give them what they want, when they want it. Make it easy and convenient to buy and deliver value for their values.”
It really bought into focus what the consumer wants and a major event in my life gave me a first-hand example of it. As a dad to be I was sitting in the delivery suite at our local hospital awaiting the imminent and somewhat early arrival of my son Alfie. Whilst trying not to show any sign of my very real fear and panic to my good lady wife, inside I was in tatters. This due to being completely unprepared both for a new baby and the sheer volume of jobs/decorating/building around the house I had committed to before his predicted February arrival. I was also hungry!
Sat in the delivery suite armed with my Smartphone I was able to order a car seat, steriliser, bottles, nappies, something called a ‘muslin’ and crucially a medium meatilicious pizza to be delivered to the hospital, allowing me to sum up the strength to hold my wife’s hand as she gave birth! For all retailers, being able to give a customer exactly what they want, exactly when they want it is crucial. 

Lessons learned in 2015

Consumers will continue to vote with their wallet and shop with retailers who can offer real convenience, rapid delivery, multichannel personalised services and a smooth joined-up shopping experience. Lessons were learned in 2015 when those whose online capability, particularly mobile, was not sufficient suffered. This was magnified on Black Friday which saw relatively low footfall in stores but massive online sales. Retailers who increased in-store employee numbers to cope with predicted demand found it lacking. Whilst year-on-year retail figures were broadly flat in 2015, most growth was delivered by online and particularly mobile sales. Bringing mobile toward the centre of retail strategy will surely be a major factor in a successful 2016.
With the current customer mindset, the disappointing “golden quarter” trading figures, the continued growth of the discount/value market and convenience sector, e-commerce and multi channel operations, the list of retail variations is huge. It is going to be really interesting to see which retailers adapt to this changing landscape in 2016 and in turn how this is going to affect both candidates and clients in B&M. 

How are businesses planning for 2016?

Generally speaking and from a B&M perspective we felt that the last 12 months was very much a shift in approach to broadening experience across categories and commercial functions. The common brief from clients looking to recruit is for people with a real breadth of experience or willingness to broaden their skill set and a focus on attitude and personality to absorb change rather than specific technical requirements. Candidates in return were very much focused on finding opportunities that offer room to have an impact on a business, grow and broaden their skill set and really contribute to change. 
We are seeing a lot of investment in bringing supply chain and merchandising to a level able to cope with evolving consumer demands and differentiate themselves from the competition in delivery capability. Those businesses that did well over Christmas did so because of robust supply chain, technology and data capture processes which allowed them to nurture the consumer throughout the stages of the customer journey. Those who did not fare so well are recognising the crucial part these back of house functions play in their operations.
Equally, in order to support the growth of online it has been essential to optimise existing store portfolios and space. We have seen a huge increase in space planning and merchandising specialists being engaged to ensure that retailers give their customer a full experience which compliments and drives the online offering. The commercial acumen brought by these specialists is required across all functions.
In this changing landscape having the right people and team in place is at more of a premium than ever before and it is very exciting to be able to contribute by working with candidates and clients alike. For a confidential conversation about opportunities in the retail sector contact David Smith-Watson at Michael Page Retail.
David Smith-Watson
T: 0161 829 0449