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Half of business leaders ‘fear they will be left behind in 2020’

It seems British business leaders do not believe their companies are fully up to speed with developing technologies – with only around half (53%) saying they are fully utilising their technology advantage to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best talent.

With businesses concerned about how Brexit could have an impact on data protection, changing regulation and supply chain disruption, ThoughtWorks asked a nationally representative sample of 1,026 business owners how fully they used technology to achieve growth and competitive advantage. The findings suggested that many businesses were increasingly concerned that they were falling behind in terms of technological development.

Tech agility linked to post-Brexit growth outlook

For the 47% of businesses that admitted their use of technology was not that sophisticated, 41% said they were trying to improve their business’s technological capabilities but were still in some way behind the competition. Furthermore, 6% of respondents said that their lack of technological development was holding their business back from growing.

Significantly, the level of tech agility of UK businesses correlated directly with how they thought Brexit would impact their business in 2020. Those agile, tech-driven businesses were far more likely to see Brexit as an opportunity to grow – 47% predicting growth opportunities to move into new markets and 19% believing they would be able to grow market share in existing markets. In contrast, those businesses that said their tech maturity was holding them back were far more likely to say Brexit would force them to put growth plans on hold (16%) or to downsize – and to pull out of some key markets (10%). The research suggests Brexit could be a catalyst that widens the tech gap in Britain, between those agile enterprises that will grow in 2020 and those struggling with technology that will fall further behind.

12-month business outlook following Brexit – by state of business tech agility

Fully use tech advantage Tech capabilities hold us back
There will be growth opportunities to move into new markets 47% 13%
There will be growth opportunities in existing markets 19% 11%
Little change – we’ll stick to our plans, we won’t be affected by Brexit 19% 42%
Little change – putting growth plans on hold until the dust settles 7% 16%
There will be downsizing – we are preparing for a loss of business 6% 8%
There will be downsizing – we will pull out of some key markets 1% 10%

Bleak mid-Winter ahead for retail

With the demise of Mothercare, and Marks & Spencer reporting a fresh slump in clothing sales[2], ThoughtWorks’ research shows retail emerging as the sector where fewest business leaders believe they are fully using technology to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best people (35%). Linking tech agility to Brexit outlook again, retail was also the sector where most business leaders said that, in the 12-months following Brexit, they were preparing to downsize and for the prospect of losing business.

Percentage of businesses that said they are fully using their technology advantage by sector

Media & Tech 77%
Financial Services 59%
Health 54%
Manufacturing 47%
Construction 43%
Education 40%
Retail 35%

 While it is perhaps unsurprising that businesses in the media and tech sector were the most likely to say they fully utilised their technological advantage, even here more than a fifth (23%) of businesses admitted that they were behind the leaders in their market and could take steps to improve their agility.

Tech on the Tyne

The ThoughtWorks study also explored business opinion across the UK’s major cities. Whilst London and the South East have traditionally dominated the regions for tech investment – with London companies securing $4.8bn (£3.8bn) in 2018[3] – the new research shows that Newcastle is the city where the highest proportion of business leaders say their business makes full use of their technology assets in terms of winning business, improving systems and attracting the best people (77%). Indeed, London only just beats Birmingham into second place (66% Vs. 65%).

Tech gap in Scotland

While most cities in England and Wales (apart from Liverpool) saw at least half their businesses taking full advantage of their technology assets, businesses north of the border seemed to be lagging behind. Only 47% of businesses in Glasgow – and 42% in Edinburgh – said they were fully utilising their technology advantage. Whilst political considerations around Brexit have been a cause of acute concern in Scotland, the new research suggests tech agility is also playing a big role in shaping business outlook for the period after Brexit – with businesses in Glasgow and Edinburgh least likely of the 11 cities surveyed to predict opportunities to grow into new markets in 2020 (Glasgow 18%, Edinburgh 17%).

Percentage of businesses taking full advantage of their technology and percentage predicting growth opportunities in new markets for 2020 – by city

City % Fully using their technology advantage % Predicting growth opportunities in new markets during 2020
Newcastle 77% 34%
London 66% 40%
Birmingham 65% 40%
Manchester 59% 35%
Nottingham 59% 41%
Cardiff 58% 40%
Bristol 56% 36%
Leeds 51% 26%
Glasgow 47% 18%
Edinburgh 42% 17%
Liverpool 37% 30%

Luke Vinogradov, Digital Transformation Principal, ThoughtWorks, said: Surrounded by change and uncertainty, organisations are realising they may not be taking full advantage of technology. Some have yet to start, others have focussed narrowly on digital customer experience, because it’s very visible and actually it’s a great first step. However, modern digital businesses already at the top of their game know that the kind of capabilities that have driven their success don’t stop there.

Across the organisation, making tech work for you means making choices. New ways of working can align your whole business around customer value; data can help you to build engagement and advantage; platform thinking and a test-and-learn approach will maximise the impact of your investments; and a delivery mindset will help you cut through the complexity and get things done. All of these digital capabilities can help you keep up – the right balance will ensure you get ahead.

As a trusted partner for many leading organisations on their digital transformation journey, ThoughtWorks can help you make the right choices, not only addressing today’s challenges but giving you the capabilities you need for a confident future.”

Centre:MK shines spotlight on Christmas shopping habits

Modern men take pride in being skilled Christmas shoppers – compared to their parents who believed present buying was a ‘woman’s job’.

A poll of 2,000 men found that in the 1970s, Christmas shopping was largely a female job, with 73 per cent of husbands leaving the task solely to their wives.

Generations later, men’s attitudes towards gift buying have moved on, with 56 per cent believing men put more time and effort in today than in previous years.

And 43 per cent said modern men independently buy gifts rather than leaving it to others, while 45 per cent think they are more thoughtful and generous.

The study was commissioned by shopping centre centre:mk, and also found the average modern man spends almost two hours selecting the perfect gift for his partner.

But the older age group of 65+ take the least amount of time, at just an hour and 20 minutes.

More than half of younger men also remember their Dad leaving all present buying to their mum.

It also emerged 74 per cent of men enjoy Christmas shopping and 42 per cent rate themselves as ‘good’ at present buying.

A fifth go as far to describe themselves as ‘very good’.

The research also found more than a third of men describe themselves as a ‘listener’ and take hints when present buying, compared to a sixth who admitted they are a last-minute shopper.

And a third believe male shopping habits have been affected by the rise of female independence and prosperity over the past 40 years.

Kim Priest, Head of Marketing at centre:mk, said: “We are seeing a move away from the ‘Last Minute Shoppers’ – men who traditionally leave it to the last minute then run into the centre on Christmas Eve.

“There will always be some man-dashers but it’s fantastic to see that men’s attitudes today have shifted with over a third of men referring to themselves as ‘The Listener’.

“They feel organised, take the hints and know exactly what to buy – how times have changed.”

As part of the research, centre:mk, on the year of its 40th birthday, collaborated with men’s fashion expert and author, Josh Sims, to explore the change in male attitudes to Christmas shopping.

Sims said: “Four decades ago, attitudes to male gifting were very different to today.

“Women were still typically considered home-makers rather than professionals – their Christmas gift was an indicator of the man’s status as the breadwinner.

“Employment for women over the second half of the 1980s then rose at the fastest rate than at any time in the last 40 years which changed things.

“The increased financial independence among women means their partners are free to buy what they want for themselves regardless.”

More than a quarter of respondents reported feeling ‘excited’ about the prospect of gift buying while 18 per cent said that shopping for their loved ones made them feel ‘content’.

More than two fifths of those polled via OnePoll also spend the most money on their significant other, splurging an average of £137.

Perfume and jewellery were revealed as the most popular modern-day items gifted from men to the loved ones in their lives.

In this way, gift-giving in 2019 aligns with 1970s trends, where perfume and jewellery were also popular.

Interestingly, there was more disparity between the percentage of women receiving domestic items as Christmas gifts.

Between 1971 and 1989, one in every three items gifted to women from their partners fell into this category, with prime examples being ironing boards, washing machines and kitchen gadgets.

In 2019, however, such items make up only 12 per cent of favoured women’s presents.

According to Sims, there are the main categories male gifters fall into:

THE LISTENER: He’s taken the hints and made a list. Although there may be no big reveal on the day – half of men buy their partners whatever it is they’ve been asked to buy.

THE FRUGAL SHOPPER: The times are tight. Or he is. Either way, for 18 per cent of men Christmas is about keeping the money wrapped up in the bank and not under the tree.

THE LAST MINUTE SHOPPER: Has he been planning for months, only at the last minute choosing to execute his plan? Or has he not realised Christmas comes the same time every year? Some 16 per cent of men leave their shopping to the week before the festive day.

THE BIG SPENDER: Mr. Big splashes the cash. It may not be on something you actually want but never mind that. He’s one of the eight per cent of men who like to impress with an expensive gift such as a tablet or a phone.

KING OF CASH: What could that slim, envelope-shaped gift under the tree be? Oh, it’s an envelope – with cash in it. Playing it safe, seven per cent of men give their partners money for the festive season.

MR. ME: You live together, right? So what he buys for you could be, something for him as well. Around four per cent of men buy a gift they actually want themselves

‘Grit and resilience’ driving small businesses

Set against a backdrop of unprecedented change – British small businesses are remaining stoic and are facing the next three months with renewed focus and a determination to succeed.

That’s according to research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance shows that for the sixth consecutive quarter confidence levels have varied only by 1%, with the number of businesses striving for growth (36%) outweighing those that are contracting (16%).

Despite the constant threat of a pre- and post-Brexit crisis, a General Election and a prolonged period of market uncertainty, the research suggests that small firms have shown remarkable resilience throughout the Brexit era and are remaining ‘optimistic’- with the majority of businesses seeing ‘business as usual’ (47%) as a viable achievement in the busy run up to Christmas.

Sector variations show a mixed outlook:

However, not everything is black and white. Although nationally business confidence has remained firm, the picture is quite different by sector.

Many of the businesses that saw growth last quarter, such as those in the Legal, IT and Telecoms sector, have fallen back this quarter (Legal: 44% in Q3’19 Vs. 30% Q4’19), (Telecoms: 41% in Q3’19 Vs. 36% Q4’19). Conversely, those sectors that saw a fall in confidence during Q3 (Construction, Retail and Manufacturing) have bounced back.

Business outlook by sector over the last six months

Q4 2019

Net %that predict

growth

Q3 2019

Net %that predict

growth

Q2 2019

Net %that predict

growth

Finance & accounting 47% 48% 33%
Real estate 43% 32% 45%
Retail 39% 34% 40%
Manufacturing 39% 30% 38%
Media & marketing 38% 37% 36%
Hospitality & leisure 37% 27% 29%
IT & telecoms 36% 41% 38%
Construction 32% 26% 31%
Legal 30% 44% 41%
Transport & distribution 29% 27% 25%
Agriculture 25% 32% 27%

Small businesses in the Agriculture and Transport/Distribution sectors appear to be in poorer shape, with much lower net confidence levels this quarter than any other sector (25% and 29% respectively). This is perhaps not a surprise given these sectors, potentially, could be the those most directly affected in the short-term by Brexit.

Small business outlook: Six successive quarters of consistent outlook, set against a context of market uncertainty

% that predict net growth (significant or modest/organic) % that predict significant expansion
Q3 2018 36% 7%
Q4 2018 36% 5%
Q1 2019 36% 6%
Q2 2019 34% 4%
Q3 2019 35% 5%
Q4 2019 36% 7%

Regional spotlight 

Around the UK, the research suggests a varied picture of confidence levels. Small companies in London and the South East are breaking away from the majority of the regions and are powering ahead in terms of growth forecasts.

Over two in five businesses (45%) in the Capital are confident of growth in the next three months and a further 11% are confident of significant growth. A similar picture emerges in the South East (40%) which stands in marked contrast to businesses in Wales and Scotland (24%) who are lagging behind in terms of business confidence. Businesses in Scotland are suffering the most – with 11% saying they are going to struggle to survive until Christmas.

With the majority of businesses around the UK remaining cautious, forecasting a period of no change as the best-case scenario – over one in two businesses in the East of England (54%) are more likely to view ‘business as usual’ as an achievable goal for the next three months, compared with businesses in London (40%) and the South West (41%).

Young businesses driving confidence

Those small businesses that have been trading for less than five years have seen a major turnaround in 12-months. After a bleak October 2018 with only 40% forecasting growth, they are now driving confidence levels (54%).

Gavin Wraith-Carter, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: “As the Brexit countdown to January 31st 2020 starts again, the research suggests that small businesses are frustrated watching a continuous game of political table tennis and have quite rightly decided to focus on the things that are within their control.

“Whilst the Government are putting a freeze on preparing for Brexit – our small businesses don’t have the luxury. Whilst many are citing market uncertainty as a barrier to growth, they are nonetheless planning ahead with cautious optimism and this is important given, for many sectors, the Christmas period is a critical period for sales and growth.”

Retail expects ‘strong’ December – CBI

Retailers reported broadly unchanged sales volumes in the year to November after six consecutive months of declining annual sales, according to the latest quarterly CBI Distributive Trends survey.

In fact, retailers expect growth to return in the year to December, with their strongest expectations in seven months.

The CBI says business conditions are expected to remain stable over the next three months and total employment was broadly flat in the year to November, with the strongest growth in part time employment in five years counterbalanced by a further fall in full-time employment.

However, orders placed upon suppliers fell for the seventh consecutive month, and at a faster pace than in October. And retailers are once again planning to spend less on investment next year than they did this year.

Within the retail sector, grocers made the greatest positive contribution to the headline figure this month, with negative contributions coming primarily from non-specialised stores, but also clothing and non-store retail. Meanwhile, internet sales growth in the year to November eased to the slowest pace seen since June and is expected to remain at this below-average pace next month.

Wholesalers will go into the Christmas period feeling less than merry as their expectations for above-average growth was instead met with the sharpest fall in sales since August 2012. Orders also fell at their fastest pace since July 2016, with further contractions expected in both measures next month.

Anna Leach, CBI Deputy Chief Economist, said: “Retailers are entering the festive season with a bit of hope that sales will head up, with the strongest expectations in half a year. Actual sales have also stabilised and have nudged above average for the time of year. And employment has stopped falling after three years of decline. But Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on investment plans for the year ahead which remain weak.   

“As the election period gets into full swing, retailers will welcome the prominence being given to fixing the broken business rates system. But it will be up to the next Government to turn warm words into action.”

The CBI says that across the economy more broadly, growth has been volatile during 2019, as activity has shifted in response to moving Brexit deadlines, and underlying momentum has slowed. It expects the economy to continue to grow modestly in the event of a “smooth” transition to a new Brexit deal, with a no-deal Brexit likely to hit output and financial markets significantly. More detail can be found in its July economic forecast.

Key findings

Retailers 

  • 38% of respondents reported that sales volumes were up on a year ago in November, while 41% said they were down, giving a balance of -3% – the highest balance in 7 months
  • Retailers expect sales volumes to increase in the year to December (+21%), with 44% expecting a rise and 23% expecting a fall
  • Sales were seen as above average for the time of year to the greatest extent since April: 38% reported sales for the time of year as good and 30% reported them as bad, giving a rounded balance of +8%. This is expected to improve further in December (+15%)
  • Orders placed upon suppliers fell for the seventh consecutive month in annual terms: 32% reported an increase while 42% reported a fall, giving a rounded balance of -9%. Retailers expect a recovery in orders growth next month (+12%)
  • Stock levels in relation to expected sales eased from the record high last month (+30% from +52%) and are expected to return to broadly average in December (+18%)
  • Business conditions are expected to remain stable over the quarter ahead (+4%), following a sharp weakening in expectations last quarter (-25%)
  • Investment intentions for the year ahead fell for the sixth consecutive quarter (-38%) and at a faster pace than last quarter (-19%)
  • Total employment was broadly flat in the year to November (-4% from -13% in October), the most positive performance in three years. This was driven by the fastest pace of increase in part-time employment in five years (+18% from -6%), while full time employment continued to decline (-24% from -16%)
  • Average selling prices in the year to November grew at a similar pace to last quarter (+64% from +67%), with a slight easing expected next quarter (+53%)
  • Annual internet sales eased to the slowest rate of growth since June (+25% from 49%), with a similar rate of growth expected next month (+23%).

Wholesalers

  • 29% of wholesalers reported sales volumes to be up on last year and 60% said they were down, giving a balance of -31%. Sales volumes are expected to fall at a slower pace next month (-14%)
  • Orders placed upon suppliers fell at the sharpest rate since July 2016 (-25% from +7%), with a further deterioration expected in the year to December (-31%)
  • Wholesale stocks fell sharply in relation to expected sales from a near-record high last month to a level considered marginally below adequate (-5% from +43%).

Motor trades

  • 40% of motor traders reported sales volumes to be up on last year and 52% said they were down, giving a balance of -12%.

SME retailers: Brexit is our biggest challenge

More than a quarter of SME retailers are worried about Brixit and the impact that it will have on their business.

27 percent of SME retailers contacted as part of research by finance solutions provider Duologi said that Brexit posed the biggest threat to them, with 62 percent admitting that they felt unprepared and unclear of what the future of European trading meant.

24 percent of retailers polled also admitted that their biggest challenge was keeping up with digital trends, such as efficient online presence over larger and international competitors.

One in ten of those polled felt bigger players like Amazon could potentially steal customers through greater visibility online.

Michael Bevan, CEO of Duologi, said: “With political uncertainty continuing into the new year, SME retailers are still unclear on how this will affect them and how they can prepare. 

“Despite additional resources being made available ahead of an exit from the European Union (EU), deadline extensions scupper existing plans and safeguards, putting small businesses in a difficult position. The economic uncertainty also fuels further consumer hesitancy when it comes to spending on significant purchases, as they are unclear on what the immediate impact of an EU exit means for them.

“Keeping up with new technology and investing in the latest innovations is also a worry for a large number of businesses, who are restricted by budget and lack of knowledge in the ever-changing area of technology. Larger businesses are also able to outspend smaller competitors and invest in their own unique innovations.”

Home and DIY retailers feared Brexit the most, while fashion, jewellery, sports and leisure retailers all listed keeping up with technology as their biggest challenge in the coming year.

Bevan continued: “However, there are simple measures which can be put in place to safeguard a business that trades frequently with the EU. Alternative POS finance options allow small businesses to move with the times and the demands of the consumer, making existing business models sustainable and even increasing number of purchases and revenue, in the process. POS finance options are quick and easy to implement, even for SME retailers, and can make paying by finance as easy as paying with a card.”

Worryingly, less than half of SME retailers are confident they will be thriving in a decade, as the various business challenges take their toll.

The report by Duologi, Finance: an SME issue, surveyed 500 SMEs across a range of retail sectors about their concerns for the future and their knowledge and understanding of point-of-sale (POS) finance.

To read the report in full, visit: https://www.duologi.com/download-sme

Shopping Mall

Retailers & consumers disconnected on in-store experiences

Retailers are letting down customer expectations, according to research conducted with over 15,000 respondents by Oracle Retail. 

The data revealed that retailers and consumers disagree on many aspects of retail, with the survey finding that although 57 percent of retailers thought that returning items was ‘very easy,’ the same share of consumers thought that returning products was a ‘complete hassle,’ or could be made much easier.

Retailers and consumers were also divided as to what they each thought was the most important in-store experience, with more than half (56 percent) of consumers rating convenience, such as having their size in stock, as the top priority, while only 34 percent of retailers noted it as such. 

Consumers also rank discovery, as in space to experiment and try new products (36 percent) and expert advice (22 percent) as important when shopping in-store. This was much higher than retailers who indicated these attributes at merely 18 and six percent, respectively. 

Retailers thought that faster shipping of goods was a priority to consumer needs, and while consumers agreed, they also were open to different ways their order could arrive as long as the delivery is fast and cheap. Ninety-two percent of consumers said they would like/love “free one-day delivery by whatever means is most expedient – drone, driverless car, messenger, etc.”

“Consumer expectations are perpetually in flux, with each positive experience setting a new bar for success in retail,” said Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Retail. 

“No matter if they’re enjoying the convenience of ridesharing, browsing through a seamless in-app experience or walking into a brick-and-mortar storefront, customers expect the same calibre of service in all interactions, upping the stakes for retailers as they compete with rival brands and new business models.”

The whole report can be read here: http://oracle.com/goto/settingthebar

Stores being too hot or cold among the nation’s biggest shopping gripes

Stores being too hot or cold, the returns counter located on a different floor and overpowering smells are among the nation’s biggest shopping gripes.

A study of 2,000 Brits found the aspects of modern retail spending which irk us the most, including the layout of a shop changing, broken contactless card machines and even no Wi-Fi in store.

For shopping online, 45 per cent named slow web pages to be their biggest bugbear, alongside products looking different when they arrive and having to wait for refunds.

But while clothes shopping in-store irritates 31 per cent of the nation, just one in 10 feel the same way when purchasing online.

An annoyed 57 per cent even said they have walked out of a shop without buying what they went in for, because they were so fed up.

Mark Howley, UK CEO of Starcom, which commissioned the research as part of it’s ‘Future Tensions in Retail’ report said: “This research defines a cultural shift and insights into consumers for brands around the future of retail.

“Shopping should be an enjoyable experience with interactive areas to enhance this and we predict the way people shop will develop greatly over the next few years, as it already has done up until now.

“Some brands are already delivering this kind of enhanced experience for consumers.

“Topshop recently launched an immersive experience in its flagship store encouraging customers to touch displays, take pictures and relax on the soft furnishings.

“And Samsung’s new experiential store in Kings Cross allows customer to experience its products, attend masterclasses and provide the consumer with key information by the tech experts.”

The study also found one in five have had a disagreement with a member of staff due to being annoyed when shopping, and this has led to three in 10 deciding to shop online instead.

A sixth admitted they feel stressed and frustrated when clothes shopping specifically, while one in 10 find themselves ‘bored’.

But more than a third view shopping as an ‘experience’ and aspects which make a great store were found to be attractive interior, plants and even ‘Instagram-able’ spaces.

It also emerged that a quarter of shoppers would like to see apps which allow you to scan items to avoid having to wait at the checkout, while one in 10 would even like to to have AI-powered shop assistants.

And with the average shopper starting to feel ‘impatient after queuing for 10 minutes, it’s no surprise 44 per cent would like to see waiting times improved in the future.

Another two in five want prices of products lowered.

More than a third would like to see packaging to be more environmentally friendly with one in five taking into consideration whether items are produced ethically when buying them.

A quarter of those polled, via OnePoll, said while they want to buy new things, they also want to help the planet and be sustainable.

The study also found that almost a third believe shops are ‘important’ to their local community and three in 10 think the traditional high street filled with independent stores will return sometime in the future.

To encourage this, nearly a third believe encouraging online retailers to put events on in store or host pop-ups will help it thrive.

But if they could only shop one way in the future, 26 per cent would opt for online while just 24 per cent would opt to go in-store.

This is due to a sixth liking the idea of not having to leave the house, more than a third enjoy having online discounts and 37 per cent believing they are able to brands they don’t have in stores nearby.

On the other hand, two thirds like to actually see a product before purchasing, three in five want to be able to hand pick items and one in five enjoy talking to staff.

Howley added: “These stats only reinforce that brands need to start offering an even more thrilling and enjoyable experience to the shopper, aside from just a good product.

“Brands need to think about the customer retail journey, what can you offer them to get them in store that you can’t get online?

“You need to think about what you can offer in terms of exclusivity, building hype around product drops, offering the Instagram photo-opp, from a fancy wall to some type of entertainment, or even an immersive sensory experience.”

FSB asserts retail ‘no deal’ concerns

Small businesses are in urgent need of more government support to overcome a worrying lack of preparedness for a no-deal Brexit.

That according to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). In the first UK-wide small business assessment of no-deal preparedness ahead of 31 October, FSB’s research shows that among those small firms that believe a no-deal scenario will negatively impact them (39%), only one in five (21%) have planned or prepared for anticipated issues. Nearly two thirds (63%) don’t think they are able to plan.

Preparations for a no-deal Brexit have come at a high price, with the average cost for these businesses that have prepared, coming in at around £2,000.

That average cost rises to £3,000 for smaller businesses that export and import. Just under one third (31%) of prepared small businesses have stockpiled ahead of 31 October while 34 per cent report temporarily or permanently reduced profitability.

Just under half (46%) of these firms, along with those that plan to prepare for no-deal over the next few weeks, think that the volatility in Sterling has negatively impacted their business. Almost half (46%) of small businesses, that believe they will be negatively impacted by a no-deal scenario, would welcome some form of financial support.

In response to the findings, FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry renewed calls for the provision of financial assistance such as vouchers worth up to £3,000 to assist with preparing for a potential no-deal scenario, including supporting small firms in reaching new global markets.

Given the number of small businesses unable to take specific actions to prepare, he also called for wide-reaching measures in an early budget to boost small business cash flow.

These include a temporary reduction in VAT, an uprating of the employment allowance, an expansion of HMRC time to pay arrangements and extending the two year ‘retailers’ business rates discount of 33 per cent, to a wider range of smaller businesses.

Cherry said: “As the risk of a chaotic no-deal Brexit on 31 October remains alive and kicking, it is worrying that many small firms have either not prepared or are finding that they can’t prepare.

“Ongoing uncertainty is to blame for preparations hitting the skids with the picture still not clear as to how the UK will leave the EU on 31 October. Until we get clarity, small firms must prepare for the cliff edge where possible, and make preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

“Preparing for this outcome is coming at a high price though with small firms being hit by an unstable pound and having to shell out money on a potential outcome that has been highly disruptive, remains uncertain and is unwanted. Government must use what little time is left before 31 October to provide small firms with the support they need to navigate the uncharted and turbulent waters of a no-deal Brexit.

“Raising awareness is important, but not enough. The Government must also turn to meaningful financial support. This is desperately needed and would certainly provide a much needed shot in the arm for those firms that have already spent money preparing. For those firms that can’t prepare, we need broader support including cutting VAT and National Insurance, uprating the £3,000 employment allowance and extending the two year ‘retailers’ business rates discount of 33 per cent, to a wider range of smaller businesses.”

Retail brands reaping rewards of personalisation

Sephora has claimed top spot in Sailthru’s 3rd annual Retail Personalization Index for the third year in a row, with Nordstrom earning second place.

The overall trend in the Index is for high scoring brands showing signs of true multi-channel personalization that is orchestrated to suit the customer.

The Retail Personalization Index is derived from a survey of 1,500 consumers; it compares feedback about cross-channel customer experiences against data such as net promoter score and repeat purchase rate.

Sailthru says it’s clear that consumers report higher satisfaction and are more likely to report purchasing again from brands with engaging, personalized experiences that make shopping easy and enjoyable across all channels.

Jason Grunberg, VP of Marketing at Sailthru, said: “Customers are highly engaged on mobile and email, not just on site and in store. The brands that performed best in the Retail Personalization Index do two things right. They deliver deep personalization on individual channels. And they deliver experiences between channels that keep customers coming back. Today, the customer controls their shopping experience, and that’s why their feedback drives this research.”

Large big box brands received high customer scores for likelihood to buy, but so did other brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Etsy. The data shows customers embrace a variety of online, bricks and mortar, big and small brands, as long as the shopping experience is rewarding.

Across the brands evaluated, some clear trends in capabilities separated the best performers from the rest.

When comparing the top 25 to those that did not make the top 100 Sailthru found:

  • On site, 88% of the top 25 brands had personalized recommendations vs. only 21% of brands that did not rank in the index
  • On email, 96% of the top 25 brands provided personalized product recommendations compared to 23% of unranked brands.
  • On mobile, 84% of the top 25 brands use push notifications vs. 10% of brands not in the top 100

Many leading scorers such as Sephora, The Home Depot, and Urban Outfitters performed particularly well on mobile and email channels, where Amazon scored poorly. Many online brands such as Thrive Market and Boxed also showed multichannel sophistication that beat Amazon. In particular, retailers with good mobile personalization climbed the rankings, which reflects changing consumer habits, with global m-commerce transactions set to overtake e-commerce transactions this year.

Other key findings:

  • Sephora, the beauty retailer, secured the top rank for the third year in a row
  • Nordstrom jumped to second place with an improvement in mobile score
  • Walmart placed 25, with a strong website score, but average scores on other channels despite recent technology investments
  • Amazon placed 57, with a strong website score, but lower scores on other channels

“The retailers that stood out this year and those that truly understand their customers’ behaviors and preferences and invest in personalization that reflects that understanding,” said Cassie Young, Chief Customer Officer at CM Group. “Consumers have made the move to mobile, and the retailers that have made that transition alongside them successfully lead the pack.”

To explore the Retail Personalization Index Top 100 go to https://www.sailthru.com/personalization-index.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Tesco brand strong, but UK retailers behind global rivals

The value growth of the UK’s top retail brands is falling behind the leading global retail brands, according to the 2019 BrandZ Top 75 Most Valuable UK Brands ranking announced today by WPP and Kantar.

While the UK retailers in the Top 75 grew their combined value by 4% over the last year, their performance is significantly lower than that of the retail brands in the BrandZ Global Top 100, which grew by 25%.

It also represents a slowdown compared with the UK retailers’ 2018 value growth of 11%.  

The retail sector dominates the UK Top 75 again this year, with 14 retail brands making the ranking: Tesco, Next, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Ocado, Boots, Co-op, Very, Waitrose, John Lewis, WHSmith and littlewoods.com. Online-only players Ocado and Very grew the most – by 35% and 21% respectively.

Without them, the combined value of the UK’s top retail brands would have increased by just 2%.

Of the retailers in the Global Top 100, Amazon was the biggest hitter, increasing its value 52% to US$315.5 billion. 

Highlights: The 2019 BrandZ Top 75 Most Valuable UK Brands shows:

  • Tesco is the most valuable UK retail brand (no.7) worth $9.2 billion, followed by Next (no.22), Asda (no.23), Sainsbury’s (no.24) and Marks & Spencer (no.27).
  • Ocado (no.34) grew its value fourth fastest of all the brands in the UK Top 75, rising 35% to $2.0bn.
  • The total value of the brands in the UK Top 75 (in all sectors) fell by 3% over the last year.
  • Outside retail, the other brands in 2019’s top 5 fastest risers are Deliveroo, (+54%; no.50; $1.4bn), Costa Coffee (+48%; no.47; $1.5bn), BrewDog (+40%; no.57; $1.2bn) and Innocent (+35%; no.51; $1.3bn).
  • Among three newcomers to the Top 75 this year, WHSmith enters at no.68. Aston Martin (no.69) and Halifax (no.70) are the other two.

The BrandZ Top 10 most valuable UK retail brands 2019

Rank 2019BrandBrand value 2019 (US$bn)Brand value changeRank 2018
7Tesco$9.2+1%7
22Next$2.8+4%25
23Asda$2.8+8%28
24Sainsbury’s$2.8+4%26
27Marks & Spencer$2.5-18%22
33Morrisons$2.1+6%36
34Ocado$2.0+35%49
40Boots$1.7-7%39
45Co-Op$1.5+2%48
52Very$1.3+21%58

Note: BrandZ is the only brand valuation ranking that combines validated financial data with consumers’ opinions to calculate the value a brand contributes to the business that owns it.

UK retailers are facing a raft of pressures, many driven by the changing needs of consumers who have high expectations when it comes to convenience, range, speed of delivery and competitive pricing. As a consequence, a record number (net 2,481) of well-known names disappeared from the UK’s top 500 high streets in 2018, including Maplin, Toys R Us and Poundworld.

Other retailers, in particular fashion brands, are moving from high street sites to new shopping areas such as train stations, airports and malls that attract high footfall and charge lower rents and rates.  

Some of the UK’s retail brands live off their fame, but are no longer distinctive or relevant to today’s consumer, according to Henry Heywood, Head of Brand at Kantar:

“The mantra here is that you cannot live off fame alone. Salience has kept brands buoyant, but without meaningful difference this is not sustainable; salience will drain away, along with value. To avoid losing more ground, retailers must reinvigorate themselves – invest in long-term brand building, by communicating to a less engaged, less loyal and more demanding consumer about why they are still relevant.”

BrandZ’s analysis also reveals the success of Irish brand Primark – not in the UK ranking –which has flourished on the high street, driven by its ability to create meaningful difference.  Built around value-for-money fashion, the brand has developed a strong emotional connection with young shoppers online via celebrity influencers and other paid partnerships.

This year’s BrandZ UK Top 75 highlights that online players Ocado and Very are the main drivers of growth. Recognised by shoppers as innovative, dynamic and responsive, they have built strong emotional connections with consumers through their customer service, range and pricing – and, ultimately, are good at telling their story. 

Heywood added: “While the death of the physical store is exaggerated, traditional retailers are having to reinvent themselves for a new generation of shoppers, connecting digital platforms and online experiences with the physical offline experience. But now with the advent of online to offline, such as the launch of the Amazon Clicks & Mortar initiative in Manchester, there will be additional pressure on an already beleaguered high street.”

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