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Toby Cruse


Contactless payments account for 51% of card sales

New data from Barclaycard’s Contactless Spending Index has revealed that 51 per cent of in-store transactions are made using ‘touch and go’ technology, up more than a third (34%) since the beginning of the year.
Industry body UK Cards Association (UKCA) has also revealed that credit and debit payments have doubled in the past 10 years, with the increased use of contactless driving the surge.
“Our data shows that growth in contactless spending has been surging for several years, but this latest insight is particularly significant as it shows shoppers now prefer to pay with ‘touch and go’, with more than half of eligible transactions made this way,” commented Adam Herson, mobile payments director, Barclaycard.
“September will mark the tenth anniversary of Barclaycard introducing contactless to the UK and during this time we’ve seen the technology evolve at a rapid pace – from mobile and wearable devices – to invisible payments such as our newly launched ‘Grab+Go’ concept, which allows consumers to scan and pay for their shopping with a smartphone.
“And with more innovation in the pipeline and a continued rise in consumer and merchant adoption, 2017 is on track to be another record-breaking year for contactless spending.”
Use of contactless has increased in the Midlands and the North of England more than anywhere else in the UK, with the biggest jumps in spending seen in Derby (up 45%), Chester (44%), Newcastle Upon Tyne (42%), Coventry (42%) and Stoke-on-Trent (41%).

The-Co-operative-Food-Logo-PNG copy

Co-op’s membership soars

Supermarket chain Co-Op continues to enjoy a renaissance as young people flock to sign up, with a membership increase of over 700,000 in the past 12 months – taking the overall membership to over 13.6 million.
The grocer, which focuses on ethical practices, now operates more than 6,800 independent co-operatives, with membership driven by the Co-Op Group along with community-owned businesses and credit unions.
Co-Op’s directors have attributed their success to ‘political shocks’ as consumer confidence and spend decreases and shoppers look out for discounts.
“Underlying the political shocks the country has experienced over the last year is a call from many parts of the UK population for an economy over which they have more of a say, and from which they get a fair share,” said Co-Op’s UK secretary-general Ed Mayo.
“As organisations owned by 13.6 million people, the UK’s 7,000 Co-Ops give people a say in what they do and how their profits are used.
“They offer a practical way to re-imagine an economy in which people have more control over their homes, work and local areas.
“It’s no surprise we’re seeing a spike in interest in co-ops, whether it’s social care providers finding that a co-operative approach can give its users and workers a voice, or young designers and web developers seeing co-ops as a natural way to collaborate at work.”
Co-Op reintroduced their loyalty programme last year in an effort to draw back customers. Members receive a five per cent reward on every brand purchase, with a further one per cent going to charity.


UK hung parliament ‘spells trouble for retail’

Analysts have warned that the retail sector could suffer as consumers pull back on spending in the aftermath of a hung parliament.

With inflation already on the increase post-Brexit, consumers are continuing to feel the pinch, while a falling Sterling and shares in Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer dropping are further causes for concern.

Britain faces a hung Parliament for just the sixth time in its political history, the most recent being in 2010.

However, luxury fashion retailers such as Burberry and Ted Baker saw a rise of two per cent as investors made the most of favourable exchange rates and invested in the international businesses.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Housebuilders are down across the board, but they’re joined by restaurants, high street banks, fashion retailers and media outlets.

“The implication is clear, consumers’ disposable incomes are expected to be stretched, and big ticket items, like property upgrades, as well as little luxuries, like regular meals out, are expected to be among the first to go.”

“Sinking share prices at the likes of Next, Restaurant Group, easyJet and Dixons Carphone are all a reflection of the fact that lower Sterling and political uncertainty mean the pounds in Britons’ pockets seem set to be lighter going forwards.

“There’s good news for UK investors who are invested in more international businesses though. The combination of international earnings and a wealthier customer base is supporting retailers such as Burberry and Ted Baker.”


UK retail sales slump in May

A rise of 2.7% in inflation, the highest level in nearly four years, has had a dramatic effect on retail with sales suffering a 0.4% drop through the month of May.

The figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show that sales rose 0.2% in May, against a 1.4% in May 2016, the lowest since January, excluding Easter Bank Holiday distortions.

The report also details how Food sales increased 3.2% on a like-for-like basis over the three months to May, 4.3% on a total basis – the highest three-month growth since 2012 rising 3.2% in the quarter to May.

Over the same period, Non-Food retail sales in the UK decreased 0.3% on a like-for-like basis and increased 0.1% on a total basis, making it the worst performance recorded since may 2011.

Online sales of Non-Food products grew 7.0%, while in-store sales declined 1.8% on a Total basis and 2.3% on a like-for-like basis, below the like-for-like 12 month average decline of 2.0%.

Commenting on the figures, Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive British Retail Consortium, said: “After the pick-up in sales over Easter, consumer spending slowed again in May resulting in almost flat growth on the previous year. Underneath the headlines, there’s continued variation in the performance of food versus non-food products, as sales performance of the two become increasingly polarised.

“Food sales, albeit positively distorted by inflation, continue to see annual growth, while in non-food categories which are predominantly capturing discretionary spending, retailers find themselves having to compete even harder.
“Overall, May’s sales slowdown is indicative of a longer term trend of a decline in consumer spending power. As household budgets become increasingly squeezed by inflation, predominantly in the non-retail part of the consumer basket, it’s vital that the next Government helps retailers keep prices low for ordinary shoppers. This means, as well as securing a tariff-free trade deal with the EU, negotiating frictionless customs arrangements; providing certainty for EU colleagues working in the UK; and ensuring the continuity of existing EU legislation as it transfers into UK law.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail added:“After the surge in retail sales last month – the by-product of this year’s relatively late Easter – retailers have been brought back down to earth with a thump. Like-for-like retail sales contracted in May, which is likely to represent a more accurate depiction of the state of UK retail currently.
“The impact of inflationary pressures on the nation’s purse continues to play out in this month’s figures, with shoppers evidently spending more on food and drink than on non-food purchases. With inflation continuing to rise and wage growth stagnating, consumers are starting to feel the pinch – although the highly competitive nature of the UK grocery market continues to play out in the consumer’s favour.

“Many retailers, particularly fashion stores, will be poised and ready to make the most of the upcoming summer, so hopefully the weather will play fair. An increased focus on managing costs will dominate the retail agenda. More imminently though, eyes will be firmly placed on the outcome of the General Election, with close attention being paid to the implications it might have on the industry.”

Bride & Groom

GUEST BLOG: The Social Wedding – How planning (and selling) the big day is going digital

Rob Kabrovski, VP of Accounts EMEA, Adaptly

The start of summer marks peak wedding season, with July to September the most popular months for couples to celebrate their big days.

Weddings are the culmination of months (even years) of planning and thousands of pounds of expenditure. Figures reveal that each couple spends on average £25,000 on their wedding (guests spend an additional £815) across verticals, meaning that the celebration is also very big business – worth an estimated £10 billion a year.

Long gone are the days of a quick ceremony in front of a few select family and friends followed by a week in rain-soaked Cornwall. They have been replaced by something more lavish. Like most of the important things in our lives (as well as the minutiae), social media plays an increasingly important role.

For instance, 62 per cent of newlyweds update their Facebook relationship status within 24 hours of getting hitched. But then we all know that managing our social profiles to ensure they are relevant has become second nature.

What is more interesting is the way that couples are turning to social media in order to plan their weddings well in advance – and it’s an activity carried out across age groups and not just among Millennials who you might assume are more versed in social media (there were two million wedding-related Internet searches in the UK by 45-54 year-olds in 2016).

Over 40 per cent of husbands and wives-to-be turn to social media to plan their weddings and they use these platforms in different ways – as well as seeking inspiration (which provides an opportunity for advertisers) ahead of their special day, one in four create a hashtag to aggregate posts on the day. It’s not only the wedding couple who turn to social media to plan and mark the celebration, but also the guests, the stag and hen crew, the bridesmaids and ushers, and so on. This means that the targeting spreads to include events and venues being organised beyond the obvious as well as gifts and outfits. Therefore brands need to think broader in terms of their product offering than just the couple.

For those advertisers that are seeking to tap this growing market there are key principles to follow, and it’s best to kick off your activity as early as possible as most engagements in the UK last for an average of 20 months – that’s a long planning period, which will also include other key marital events including engagement parties, hen dos and stag parties.

Pinners use Pinterest as a first stop to discover ideas that pique their interest, with over 40 million people using the platform globally to help guide them through the wedding planning process. As it’s such a powerful tool it should not be underestimated and creative treatments should reflect every part of the wedding planner’s journey. Given that weddings are highly visual affairs, bright and striking ‘thumb-stopping’ creative works the best.

While the summer months are the most popular for weddings, they are also the most expensive and ceremonies are now taking place throughout the year. To exploit this, advertisers should run their Pinterest wedding campaigns well past the key months using specific terms for search targeting, such as ‘wedding dress’, ‘honeymoon’ and so on.

Facebook and Instagram also play an important role in the wedding journey and have the additional benefit of allowing targeting based on relationship status, gender and location. A brand can reach a wide audience by targeting users who are engaged with an entire product range through carousel ads, while shoppable video ads with user-generated content can help bring stories of real couples’ weddings to life.

In addition, Twitter has a crucial role to play, allowing conversations and keyword targeting to tailor messaging to what users are tweeting about. Wedding buzz words such as #wedding and #shesaidyes are likely to be popular topics on Saturdays during the key wedding periods, while video featuring prominent people and branding in the first five seconds will engage viewers.

Snapchat is also increasingly popular, with custom geofilters enhancing the experience. Snap Ads with long-form content can engage users for longer as wedding guests and the happy couple are likely to re-watch the stories the following day and beyond.

Overall, social media has enhanced the wedding experience for brides, grooms, family and guests.

Happily for advertisers, it also allows them to play a new pivotal role in the special day.

Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit

Want to speak at the Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit?

We are looking for industry thought leaders to participate in the seminar programme at the Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit, which takes place on February 5th & 6th 2018 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted.

The Summit is a highly-focused event that attracts senior professionals in a variety of retail verticals for unrivalled networking, learning and debate.

So if you have experience in the world of retail display and shopfitting and would like to share those experiences with peers through either a talk or by participating in a panel session, contact Rebecca Down on 01992 374 087, or email

Plus Size Mannequins

GUEST BLOG: Time for plus-size mannequins on the High Street?

By Lyndsey Dennis, Editor, Retail Focus

Is the fashion industry and general public more open to plus-size mannequins on the high street? Retail Focus finds out…

Lingerie brand Bluebella recently unveiled stats comparing a woman from 1957 to one today. An average female in 1957 was size 12, 34B bust and size three feet. In 2017, the average is size 16, 36DD and size six feet.

Research from the University of Liverpool has looked at mannequin sizes used to advertise UK female fashion, stating they are too thin and may promote unrealistic body ideals. Led by Dr Eric Robinson from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, researchers surveyed national fashion retailers on two city high streets.

The study, published in The Journal of Eating Disorders, found that the average female mannequin body size was representative of a severely underweight woman. The average male mannequin body size was significantly larger than the average female and only a small proportion of male mannequins represented an underweight body size.

‘We of course are not saying that altering the size of high street fashion mannequins will on its own solve body image problems. What we are instead saying is that presentation of ultra-thin female bodies is likely to reinforce inappropriate and unobtainable body ideals, so as a society we should be taking measures to stop this type of reinforcement,’ says Dr Eric Robinson.

Selfridges was recently in the headlines for using a ‘thin’ model. The Advertising Standards Authority cleared the model and said she did not appear to be ‘significantly underweight’.

‘We’ve seen positive advances in the fashion industry over the last few years, including from Selfridges themselves, which shows that there is a shift towards more responsible advertising and portraying of diversity. However, the recent advert is another example where a slim body is still favoured over others, despite the fact that it doesn’t reflect the majority of customers,’ says Denise Hatton, chief executive of the National Council of YMCAs, and a founding partner of the Be Real campaign with Dove.

The founders of the campaign want retailers, as well as modelling agencies and other industries, to promote body types that reflect the population, with all its shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, abilities and more.

Universal Display offers several plus-size mannequin ranges, its first launched some 25 years ago. ‘We have always been conscious of varied body shapes and sizes and it seems that some companies have just this moment woken up to this,’ says Jonathan Berlin, managing director of Universal Display.

Likewise, Adel Rootstein first launched a plus-size range in the 80s. ‘Plus size mannequins at Rootstein have always been part of the norm. Dressing our new showroom in West Kensington, where you can see Penelope, I had no trouble finding clothes to fit her on the high street,’ says Tony Crathern, creative consultant at Adel Rootstein.

The company doesn’t currently offer a plus-size male form. ‘We have never been asked for a plus size male line. I think men look at themselves in a different way fashion wise to women,’ says Crathern.

Window France doesn’t have any plans to launch a men’s range either. ‘It’s an interesting subject but I’m not sure that men are that concerned about how they are portrayed as much as women are,’ agrees Jean-Marc Mesguich, CEO of Window France.

For women’s fashion, some of the company’s clients were interested in testing plus-size mannequins. ‘We decided to invest a great deal of time and money to develop a modern style plus-size collection that would meet both the public’s and brand’s criteria. After some research we decided to work with a top international plus-size fashion model that had all the style, elegance and character to make a fabulous collection. One year later, the result was a very contemporary vision of the plus-size woman, a stylish, sexy, confident and modern woman. Our goal was to make every plus-size woman proud of her generous proportions and feminity and we believe we have achieved that in our VOLUPTUOUS collection,’ says Mesguich.

Bonaveri’s ambition is to represent human proportion without making specific references to any one sculptural ideal, ensuring that within its collections, forms are original, diverse and inclusive.  Bonaveri’s collections are designed to allow customers to make their own choices about size, enabling a broader diversity of scale according to individual preferences.

The company also moves with cultural, social and market trends. In the 60s, its female forms explored and celebrated a more voluptuous shape, accentuating curves and marking out distinctions in waist and shoulders. Through the 70s and 80s Bonaveri’s forms included reflections of cultural influences on body shape and by the 90s the brand’s aesthetic was informed by many more influences; fashion, fitness, diversity.

Proportion London launched its size 14 #IAM mannequin with a thought-provoking event where the conversation was anchored by diversity and a fashion-for-all approach. Industry campaigner Debra Bourne, model Samantha Bolger and proportion’s creative director Tanya Reynolds spoke about the importance of diversity within fashion and retail. The message was powerful and inspiring; we all have body hang-ups, none of us are the same shape or size, however, we should all receive the same fashion experience, regardless.

‘As a mannequin designer I draw a lot of my inspiration from real people and real personalities.  #IAM was developed to represent curvier women in a modern and positive way, with particular attention paid to sculpting a body that captures and compliments the contours of the shapelier figure,’ says Reynolds.

‘I believe that your environment plays a crucial role in your self worth and your idea of beauty, and no one should feel left out or under-represented in the media. Everyone should be able to have a positive fashion experience no matter what shape, size, race, gender, identity or age, and it’s great to see that retail will now have a conteporary and stylish size 14 mannequin option, with a diverse range of skin tones to add into the mix,’ says Bolger.

With plus size fashion options increasing and the likes of Simply Be opening a physical space on Oxford Street, it seems there is a greater need for plus size clothing, but some retailers are still hesistant to use realistically shaped mannequins, instead opting for aspirational sizes. As Bolger says, everyone deserves a positive fashion experience.


eTailing Summit: Just 5 weeks to go – Secure your stand!

Some of the biggest names in eCommerce are attending this summer’s eTailing Summit, with the one-day event attracting an A-Z (okay, W) of the UK’s leading online retailers and more.

There are just five weeks until the event, which takes place on July 11th at the Hilton London Canary Wharf, and there are just five stands remaining.

Here are 3 reasons you should be there:

  • You will be provided with a bespoke itinerary of face-to-face meetings with buyers who are looking for your solutions, and with those you would particularly like to meet.
  • There are ample networking opportunities for more informal relationship-building.
  • You’ll receive a stand package, inclusive of furniture, electrics and name board – Easy.

Act swiftly if you would like to attend – Contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email to secure your place.


Tesco and Dixons Carphone forge new deal

Tesco has confirmed a new deal with Dixons Carphone to trial concessions within some of the retailer’s largest supermarkets.

Dixons Carphone, which owns tech retailer Currys PC World, will launch two new outlets this summer in Tesco Extra stores located in Milton Keynes and Northampton.

Both concessions will stock a range of Currys PC World products, including white goods, computers, televisions and accessories, along with Dixons Carphone laptop repair service.

In a direct response to its key rival Sainsbury’s inclusion of Argos stores, Tesco said the new partnership would offer customers the “best possible range of services”.

Both stores will be on trial for a year before any decisions are made regarding further roll-outs.

“We’re always looking at ways to offer our customers the best possible range of services in our stores,” Tesco UK chief executive Matt Davies said.

“We think this is a winning combination for customers and look forward to opening the first outlet in our Milton Keynes store in July.”

Dixons Carphone’s UK and Ireland chief executive Katie Bickerstaffe said: “Customers tell us they want to pick up the latest electrical products conveniently and at competitive prices, with expert advice and from someone they trust to keep them working seamlessly.

“This trial gives them all of this during a weekly grocery shop, which we hope they will enjoy.”





GUEST BLOG: Sarah Roberts: Top Five Fails of eCommerce

Sarah Roberts is an Experience Strategy Director who leads the cxpartners London office. Sarah works with clients in the UK and in Europe to bring a customer focus to service and product design. With a passion for retail, Sarah outlines the top ways to redesign eCommerce.

One of the biggest challenges for retailers around digital is how to work out which areas of development will deliver maximum value. Prioritising spend and resource is a tricky balance I’ve seen many times working with retail clients.

In the early stages of consulting with retail clients, I take time to listen and discuss where they are in their planning and assess what’s driving decisions around product and service development. I do my analysis wearing three hats – the client’s hat, the UX hat and (most importantly) the customer hat.

With that in mind, here are my top traps retailers fall into:

1. Second guessing what customers want

We all shop and the majority of us shop online regularly. Because this is natural to us, it is all too tempting to assume the role of the customer and make decisions on what content, features and functionality to prioritise.

Without stepping back to watch and hear what customers do you run the risk of investing in the least important things or muddying the experience with too many options. It’s important to turn away from our own experiences and focus on reliable data and first-hand insight.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the insight reliable e.g. recent, supported, evidence-based?
  • Is the research too influenced by (often persuasive) people in the organisation?
  • What are the benefits to the business by addressing this particular customer need?

Support assumptions with real evidence and balance value against both customer and business. If you don’t have that evidence to hand, go and get it.

2. Adding too many features

There is nothing wrong with documenting your requirements, especially if you have clear objectives and have done your research. It goes wonky when you brainstorm a “everything you can have in an online shop” list.
Identify the features that are going to make the biggest difference to your customer and your business. Out of these prioritise what is feasible, both in terms of resource and time. A good way to do this is to build out an Experience Map . This gives a clear view on where to prioritise features based on both customer and business needs. It cuts out the guesswork (and half the time!) and brings everyone on-board with a plan that is measured and set for success.

Keep requirements tightly aligned to business objectives (why are we doing this?) and to customer needs (what are we solving for the customer?).

3. Copying competitors

This is linked to my previous point. Redesign in digital goes even wonkier when you cherry pick things you like the look of from other online shops. There is an understandable temptation to make sure you offer the same features as your competitors. You don’t want to be seen as dated or out of touch.

For instance, if all Grocer’s offer a ‘my favourites’ tool, why don’t you do so too? If competitor X has done it, it must be a good thing, right? Wrong. The reason this is bad idea is that there are a lot of features out there that are a) not delivering business goals b) ignored by customers or worst of all c) annoy customers. Without the required analytics, you can’t be sure a competitor feature is truly working for them.

4. Trying to ‘delight’ customers

I’ve banned myself from using this term… I find it is too open to interpretation. It suggests that we need kooky animations and design flourishes that will make customers think “wow! that was so much fun, I’ll buy my bin bags more often from here!”

Customers don’t want or need to be distracted from their end goal of buying the goods they want.. They want to get things done quickly. What will really delight customers is the simplicity of the overall experience. The best feedback of all is that they barely notice.

Instead, it’s about finding the right moments in context of the product/service you are selling to give that little bit extra.  To make it work, keep it firmly pinned to a need e.g. I want to look at the flow of the garment but I don’t want to sit watching a video each time. Give me beautifully shot photos of the model walking and moving. Zara is particularly good at this (LINK).

Don’t forget interaction design too – the best investment you can make in delightful things are well executed micro-interactions. Small things like how elegantly an item drops into a basket can make a world of difference.  

5. Letting fear rule

Even with some careful planning and pre-launch testing, there is always an element of risk. Not all of your customers are going to like what you’re doing and it might take a few visits before they come around. That’s ok. Don’t let that fear make decisions for you.

Retailers are becoming increasingly more daring in their approach to digital by trying things out and not being afraid to adapt often to the responses from customers. There’s a lot of evidence of this in relation to omni-channel where in-store apps and IoT provide a both platform and access to customers to test out ideas.

Managing the expectations of the business however, is the bigger challenge. With online sales playing second fiddle to those of in-store and development budgets set much lower, there is less margin for failure.

Be brave – if you have included customers, UX expertise and engaged stakeholders you are designing something that will work. Build in your risk plan (can we do one small thing first? How quick can we adapt/iterate? Have we laid on the right support?).

Redesigning in the retail sector is never easy. There are competing seasonal pressures, multiple stakeholders and of course, customers to think of. Hopefully, by following a few key bits of guidance here, you can avoid some of these common pitfalls.