2023 HAS proven to be something of a tumultuous year for the retail sector. With soaring crime rates, fluctuating demand and disruptions in supply chains, retailers are facing a perfect storm of challenges. Given this landscape, suggests Matt Gregg, investing in intelligent security technology has emerged as a crucial strategy for protecting businesses, assets and customers alike.
Set against a backdrop of seismic shifts in consumer behaviour, coupled with thinning profit margins, the retail sector is grappling with multifaceted challenges. A surge in crime rates, early summer dreary weather impacting footfall and stretched policing resources have all played their part in rendering the retail landscape a difficult one in which to operate.
For their part, retailers themselves are now at a crossroads. They need to act swiftly to retain customers and safeguard their investments.
The cost-of-living crisis has not helped matters. According to police statistics, retail crime escalated by 21% in the 12 months leading up to March last year. Accounting for nearly 500 incidents monthly, episodes of employee theft contributed significantly to this increase. Businesses believe this statistic might be higher, in fact, with incidents not reported due to the belief that constraints on policing resources will hamper the response.
The ramifications of the above are far-reaching, affecting retailers’ bottom lines and, importantly, consumer loyalty. Department store brands anticipate losing up to 32% of their customer base due to heightened crime concerns.
We have a collective responsibility as a sector to provide the essential protection, technologies, and strategies needed to address the escalating challenges and extend crucial support.
Amid those concerns outlined, the implementation of security measures becomes paramount. There’s a necessity for striking a delicate balance between ensuring a welcoming consumer environment and addressing the current climate of muted confidence across the retail sector.
As UK retailers navigate these economic complexities, maintaining strong customer connections remains a central focus.
Recent times have witnessed the decline of well-established High Street favourites. The demise of retailers such as Wilko underscores the intense competition in play and the struggles faced when it comes to bridging the gap between online and in-store operations.
In a world seeking seamless connected experiences, thriving retail outlets merge the online journey with the in-store reality. This synergy is vital, with recent data suggesting a gradual shift away from exclusively online shopping. Consumers are increasingly valuing the competitive prices offered in physical stores.
An omnichannel experience isn’t merely a luxury. Rather, it’s an essential for keeping consumers engaged and interested. Primark is the classic example. The business has steadfastly resisted any move to online shopping until 2022 and been firmly entrenched in the ‘bricks and mortar’ space.
Hwoever, Primark is now declaring a wider ambition to ‘transform’ its digital presence and fulfil ‘unfulfilled demand’ by launching click-and-collect for womenswear based on the success of its childrenswear trials.
Power of technology
Security technology emerges as a critical enabler for retailers to minimise the disruption outlined. The integration of intelligent key and asset management systems empowers a proactive way in which retail operations can actively protect their investments.
Such systems offer multifaceted benefits. They enhance physical security. Smart automated systems control and monitor access to valuable assets, in turn reducing opportunities for theft.
These systems also mitigate employee theft. Transparent, traceable and, what’s more, accountable systems deter employee theft, ensuring all the while that ethical standards are upheld.
Further, they optime supply chain efficiency. Beyond in-store experiences, technology improves logistics and supply chain management to ensure a seamless approach from customer order all the way through to delivery.
In the current uncertain environment, successful retailers are going to be those who adapt quickly, preserve customer loyalty and make effective use of technology to streamline operations both online and in-store.
As Charles Darwin once famously noted: “It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most adaptable to change.” The retail sector’s transformation and embracement of modern technology embodies this philosophy.
Lifeline for retailers
Intelligent security offers retailers a lifeline. By integrating key management systems that present data-driven solutions and advanced tools, retailers can operate smooth supply chains, present the latest offers and stock levels as required and continue to create a safer environment for customers, while in parallel safeguarding their investments.
Amid the cost-of-living crisis and evolving consumer preferences, this intelligent technology paves the way for a more resilient and connected future for the retail industry.
Matt Gregg is Retail Business Development Manager at Traka UK (www.traka.com)
*For more information on Traka’s specialist solutions for the retail sector visit Traka Device Management Lockers