At the mercy of economic forces and changing consumer habits and expectations, these are challenging times for UK retailers. A combination of tax increases, rising costs, fierce competition and a squeeze on consumer spending is threatening to wipe out thousands of British retailers, with a string of familiar high street names expected to go into administration this year.
The demise of high street stalwarts BHS, fashion brand Jaeger and Poundland’s 99p stores is the tip of the iceberg. According to insolvency firm Begbies Traynor, nearly 23,000 retailers were under significant financial stress at the end of the first quarter of 2017.
Modern consumers are a fickle and savvy bunch – the advent of the ‘always on’ society and the conviction that you can find it cheaper online have dramatically changed buying behaviour.
Expectations are higher than ever and the channels to express discontent are now manifold, easily accessible and freely available. Never before has an individual had the power to reach millions and potentially damage a brand – with 140 characters and a well-placed hashtag.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Those retailers which have adapted to meet the changing needs and expectations of consumers are faring better. Online sales, for example, are increasing year on year – reaching £133bn in 2016 – a 16 per cent increase on the previous year.
It is against this backdrop of unprecedented change that we have commissioned a follow-up to our 2013 Retail Trend Report. In the four years since the last round of research the world has changed, technology has changed, consumers have changed and the volume of data available has exploded.