Christmas is usually a booming period for retailers, but 2012 proved to be something of a wash-out after a year of incessant rain. The new director general of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, said that sales were likely to be greater than for the same period the year before, but that this would only represent the increase in price inflation.
Even the last minute Christmas rush seemed a bit lacklustre. With consumers harder hit economically than ever before, they held out as long as possible in the hope of snapping up a few bargains, particularly over the last shopping weekend before Christmas Day. Consequently, a certain amount of the sales figures were the product of discounts and promotional offers, which then cut into profit margins for the retailers.
One area of retail which did show an increase was the online market. Retailers have responded to the demand for multi channel retailing by providing more options that customers want, such as next-day delivery and click-and-collect services. Online sales alone only represented about 10% of the Christmas sales figures, which just goes to show that a multichannel retail strategy is the best foot forward for attracting customers and increasing sales and profits.
In fact, Morrisons supermarket, the only one of the ‘big four’ supermarkets not to offer an internet shopping service, revealed poor Christmas sales figures earlier this month, suggesting that it has indeed been hit hard by a lack of online service, smaller convenience stores or loyalty card option. The company are fighting back though, hoping to have an online presence later this year and 70 convenience stores by the end of the year.
Unfortunately, the future also looks somewhat bleak for retail. With four big-name stores (HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster and Comet) closing stores and going into administration within a very short period of time, this news should come as no great surprise to British shoppers.
It is expected that prices will continue to gradually rise, while pay remains frozen, debts linger on and job security remains something of the past. This of course means that shoppers will be even less willing to part with their hard-earned cash and retailers are going to have to fight hard to keep customers coming through their doors or clicking or swiping onto their websites.
So, as a retailer trying to come out on the other side of this difficult growth period alive and kicking, what can you do to ensure this is the case? As well as offering quality products and service to your customers, one of the most important aspects you can consider is looking at your shop design, which can do a lot towards attracting and keeping customers. Creating an environment which will encourage your customers not only to step through the door in the first place, but also to spend longer in your store and be inspired to spend more, is essential and our team of outstanding designers can help you to come up with a concept that will really work.