Tag Archives: Lockdown

Five positive signposts on the road to retail recovery in 2021

The data presented in nightly news broadcasts is a strange hybrid of bad news and good news. Of course, we have the all too familiar grim updates on hospitalisations and deaths as a result of covid. But we also now have a counter-narrative – the numbers of people vaccinated who can look forward to a fear-free life again. We may be in the midst of a lockdown, but hope is not only on the horizon but in front of our eyes and shortly to be in our arms. The best of times and the worst of times.

Retailers are also facing a mixture of challenging and hopeful data. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently revealed sales growth overall falling by 0.3% in a year dominated by the Covid-19 impact – the worst annual change since the BRC began collating figures in 1995. Yet this is hardly surprising, with the Government forcing retailers to close. Unlike in the midst of other recessions, we can be confident an unprecedented bounceback is looming. A recent KPMG/Ipsos study points to a sales growth of up to 3% for 2021, despite the huge challenges in the first two quarters. Indeed there are several signals that point to a swift route to recovery in 2021.

Weathered and tested

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. Throughout the pandemic, retail has been written off only to bounce back whenever it has been allowed to trade. This is evidenced by the figures for lockdown two. According to the ONS, the headline figure for retail sales volumes in November during the second lockdown were 3.8% lower than in October, ending six months of growth. However, the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and, remarkably, sales remained 2.6% above February’s level in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month.

Throughout the past 12 months, retailers have had to adapt their trading at short notice, whether closing altogether or introducing a variety of safety measures and still enticing customers to spend. They have also needed to embrace new ways of trading, from click and collect to virtual shop floors to having sales experts in call centres rather than in person. This experience and ability to weather these storms and still attract customers mean retailers will be in much better shape when the good times return.

A shot in the arm for consumer confidence

Retail has always needed and relied on a confident consumer to sustain itself. You feel hopeful about the future and you are more likely to splash out. Over the past few months, we have had a perfect storm of negativity. Daily charts showing exponential infection and death rates highlighting the problem now, with no end in sight creating a feeling of hopelessness. This has created a mental health crisis to add to the immediate public health crisis. However, just as the confidence has been sapped by one thing – the coronavirus, so the cure can be the vaccine – a literal shot in the arm for consumer confidence. Of course, millions have been negatively financially impacted by the crisis, but due to the furlough scheme, many have been protected in a way that hasn’t happened in previous recessions.

Indeed this was the analysis by a KPMG/Ipsos retail think tank, which said retail should be able to look to a brighter second half of 2021. Pent-up savings, demand, a more confident consumer and a successful vaccine roll out all point to a strong rebound. However, it also points to some consumer behaviours changing during the pandemic, with performance varying across different categories.

Retailers have embraced an omnichannel strategy

The pandemic has speeded up the adoption of an omnichannel strategy for many retailers that was probably overdue. Dunelm is a good case in point. Despite huge challenges in its retail estate, the company’s investment in the online channel has paid dividends. Despite all of Dunelm’s 174 stores in Britain being closed to customers, the company expects pre-tax profit for the first half of its financial year to be about £122m, up 33.9% on the previous year. This is due to the investment in online and the trend for home furnishing during the pandemic. Similarly, Dixons Carphone Warehouse announced pre-tax profits of £45m for the six months to 31 October with online sales up 145%. Those brands that have a strong online presence have been able to trade successfully and will benefit even further when their physical stores re-open. Particularly given the next key signal.

Pent-up demand for physical retail experience

Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown, there has been huge pent-up demand in evidence whenever shops have been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off-putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. While we are in the midst of a third lockdown, we know from the end of the second one that footfall increased by nearly 20% as determined consumers returned to stores. With increasing numbers being vaccinated, we can expect an even stronger rebound this time. I am really confident we will see an unprecedented retail re-emergence when the impact of max vaccination is felt. Even retailers like Primark, which recently revealed a £300m hit to profits, remain bullish. As Jason Bason, finance chief of its parent company Associated Foods, pointed out, when its shops had been open sales were only down 14% despite the restrictions. After all, if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers. People miss the retail experience.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’

One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make fewer journeys out, but when they do, not returning empty-handed. Our own analysis for the last trading period, December showed really healthy growth in conversion rates of 51%. This was due to pent-up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. Again, the result of lockdown is to make the return to retail all the more profitable – something that can give retailers something to look forward to as we focus on getting through this difficult time. This particularly applies to categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. The pandemic has underscored we may be less willing to venture out, but when we do we want to make it count.

While we are in the middle of a really difficult period it may be difficult to keep optimistic, but as we approach the end game of this crisis we can be sure that the public will want to celebrate their new-found freedoms. Retailers that have adopted the right strategies can benefit when good times return.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Boosting your productivity and mental health for home working

While we may have wanted to start the year on a positive footing and ready for the new working year, the latest lockdown has made this a challenging time. For those able to work from home, it can be difficult to differentiate or define mentally and physically the difference between where you work and where you relax. With so many now having to face up to home schooling this adds a further layer of stress on an already tricky situation. But one consolation might be – we really are all in this together.

The New Year remains a good time to develop new positive habits and also recognise the bad habits you may have picked up. Let’s make the best of the situation and work from home productively while looking after our mental health.

Here we have outlined a few tips and tricks Gekko have used with our teams to manage and achieve the best work life balance with all our lives being within four walls.

Create a ‘home office’, however small

You may well have begun the first lockdown with a dedicated home office. Over time you may have witnessed ‘office creep’, increasingly working from the sofa or checking emails in bed. Have a renewed focus on creating a place you can separate from the rest of your home life. This will psychologically create an important distinction enabling you to switch between home working and home living. If you are able to use a separate room, close the door when the working day is over. This will help the active brain switch off from the thoughts of the working day.

However many don’t have the option of a dedicated working space but we can still apply the same methodology. Make sure you switch off the laptop, ipad or work phone and put them in a cupboard or drawer. Having a laptop out of sight will help put it out of mind meaning you can enjoy your evenings without being distracted. Make sure you do it every day to embed this as a habit. This will be your own version of leaving the office at the end of the working day – without the commute to have to contend with.

Support your posture, your lap shouldn’t be your desk

Working from home means it is all too easy to have no barrier between work and playtime. The ‘soft office’ is a phenomena that has developed throughout the country with a couch replacing your chair and your lap becoming your desk. This of course is bad for your posture. Look to find a more sturdy working space one that may emulate your office set up and ensure you have a chair that supports your back properly. One great tool is Upright Go, which can track and train your posture. This app also provides a visual representation of how you look when you are working. This can be eye opening.

One option is a Standing Desk for your Laptop. These are adjustable to suit any height and will bring your laptop to eye level, which is also perfect to present and work at.

For those using a monitor rather than a laptop screen there are great affordable options for a home office out there. Many brands have a range of different size monitors at reasonable price points to suit any task and will help you to lean into your laptop screen less.

Have a test week to monitor your productivity

You may have put boundaries in place when you first started working from home but over time they may have disappeared. These might be languishing alongside those plans to learn a new language or play an instrument. If they have, take some time to figure out out how you feel most comfortable and the ways you work which make you most productive. You might even start off with a test week where you assess your productivity and how long you are spending on different tasks.

One great exercise is monitoring how long tasks take. You can use a laundry cycle to monitor how long you have focused on one piece of work. Activity trackers like Rescue Time or Clockify are great for showing exactly where your time goes. You can even get Alexa or Google assistant involved. Set timers to get them to remind you to move onto another task or manage your workflow throughout the day.

Don’t skimp on breaks – schedule them in

If you have been working from home for a while it is easy to forget what a usual day in the office looks like. In some ways it is harder to take a break without the natural conversations with colleagues etc to break up the day. The day marches on without notice meaning lunch is grabbed on the hoof between calls. Also it is also possible not to see any daylight, particularly in winter months. This can all serve to burn you out, meaning you become less productive.

Combat this by planning your days in the morning. Add in breaks where you may have had them when working in the office. Your Fitbit should come in handy for this. You will be able to set reminders to take a break and track your steps. If you don’t make your 10,000 steps during the day it is the perfect excuse to get back out once the working day ends. One technique to look at is The Pomodoro Technique. This technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by a short break. This can help you reset your mood for five minutes with some soothing music or a set time to grab a cuppa or fill up your water bottle.

Boost your mood and steps with on the go meetings

Working from home can certainly feel isolating, particularly for those used to an office environment. However remember your other colleagues will likely feel the same. Schedule times for an all team video call or even walking meetings to catch-up. You can increase your steps and even set team challenges.

If you know you do not need to be in front of a screen for a meeting why not use it as a chance for some exercise? It can be a real win/win. Grab your trainers and ear buds and go somewhere quiet while participating in the meeting. Just make sure it is somewhere you can get good reception and limited background noise, just hit mute when you’re not talking and remember to unmute when it’s your turn.

Working from home may have its positives but it’s not always easy. Remember to not be too hard on yourself while adapting to changes you can’t control. The great thing about lockdown is it creates an opportunity to work ‘your way’, whether listening to your music or taking breaks when you want. Make the best of the situation to embed some positive new habits while working from home, even one change will make a difference.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Four positive signals of a happy new year for retailers in 2021

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. The pandemic has forced new ways of trading, from the obvious ways of ensuring COVID-safe spaces to rethinking how to target consumers spending the majority of their lives at home. For the retailers left standing, this period of dramatic change will have stiffened their sinews and made them lean, adaptable and ready for when the good times return. There are encouraging signs and we’ve looked at some recent data that provide four signals for real optimism about 2021.

Retailers embrace an omnichannel strategy
The first lockdown came as a hammer blow to the industry. With retail outlets shut throughout the country, consumers shifted rapidly online and overall sales fell sharply . Despite this, the growth in ecommerce couldn’t make up for the volume lost through the doors of physical retail. While the first lockdown was a shock to us all, this time retailers have been far better prepared. The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor for November revealed that footfall across all UK shopping destinations fell by 65.4 per cent compared with the same month last year, due to England’s lockdown. According to the ONS, retail sales volumes last month were 3.8 per cent lower than in October, ending a six months of growth. However the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and sales remained 2.6 per cent above February’s level, in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month. Indeed Dixons Carphone’s recently released half year results indicating a strong performance despite the challenges.

This shows the ongoing resilience of retail with retailers coming up with the right enticing offers to encourage spending. They had adapted to the changed circumstances and ensured they could reach consumers instore or at home. In 2020 the old online/ offline dichotomy has become more irrelevant with all brands and retailers needing an omni-channel strategy to ensure they can best respond to the needs of customers. This is the best way to remain relevant and operate in the future.

Pent up demand for physical retail experience
Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown there has been huge pent up demand in evidence whenever retail has been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. Recent data shows a bigger picture of the return to stores following the lifting of lockdown 2, with footfall increasing by over 19.9% as determined consumers returned to stores ready to purchase after weeks away. High streets and shopping centres have been the real drivers of growth, having suffered the most in November.

Our own analysis of consumer behaviour based on in store behaviour, the G-Index,  has continually been updated post lockdown and we now have over 200 responses from around the country in various stores. 47% remain happy coming into stores, while there has been an increase in those feeling cautious. With that in mind, 90% of retailers have staff on the door managing footfall amongst many other measures designed to maintain a safe environment for all customers. They have impressively reacted to ensure they are COVID safe and have made sure they have communicated this to their shoppers. They have responded in a responsible and agile manner and generated enormous good will that will stand them in good stead for the future. After all if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’
One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make less journeys out but when they do, not returning empty handed.Our own analysis for December is showing a healthy growth in conversion rate of 51%. This was due to pent up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. This is particularly the case with categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. We may be less willing to venture out but when we do we want to make it count. Smart brands and retailers have realised this and have really focused on making the most of these opportunities for engagement. A great retail environment and well thought through customer experience is always crucial but never more so than now. Additionally a recent IDC Retail Consumer Insights Survey found that 59% of global customers are likely to shop elsewhere if they can’t buy online and pick up in-store. In comparison, 48% said they’d find another retailer if they can’t see in-store availability online.

The rise in prominence of the trusted sales expert

As we have been beset with Amazon packages we have realised something very crucial through absence, namely the importance of a trained expert to provide guidance and advice. For big ticket items, we simply haven’t been able to get the advice we need with information online perhaps answering the ‘what’ a product does and ‘how’ it works but is never able to respond to our unique reasons of ‘why’ we need it. This has been demonstrated by the impressive conversion rates we have witnessed of demonstrations leading to sales. When parting with a significant sum on considered purchases we want to speak to a human who can understand a product’s role in a customer’s life and make recommendations. A further investment in these experts will represent a smart strategy for the next year.  Of course this advice can also be given on the phone in a world of social distancing and many brands have invested in staff in call centres to answer more specific questions about how products can fit into changed lives.

While the vaccine offers the promise of a return to a more normal life, we will all be changed by this experience. Despite the tough times, retailers have shown the strength and adaptability to respond to customers’ changed needs. As the clock chimes midnight this New Year’s Eve perhaps we can be confident we can mean it this time when we say ‘Happy New Year’.

To read the full article please visit Retail Sector.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Working From Home

Just as you think life is even just a little closer to ‘normal’ it changes in an instant! Or just before Strictly on Saturday evening.

The new lockdown rules are in full swing, and just like you, our teams are continuing to work remotely. It may feel like the months have crept in and you now can’t tell the difference between where you work and where you relax. 

So we have come up with some simple tips to help you get out of the bad habits you may have picked up and get back into the swing of working from home.

  1. Create a dedicated working space

Get back to the space you created at the beginning of lockdown. If it’s possible, make it a place you can close the door on when the working day is over. This will enable you to switch off and make a clear distinction between home and work. 

If you do not have an option of a dedicated working space just make sure you switch off and tidy everything away so you can enjoy your evenings without being distracted by work.

  1. Set aside your soft office 

Working from home may have meant you have ended up in a ‘soft office’ where your couch has replaced your chair and your lap is now your desk. 

This isn’t good for your posture so find a more sturdy working space.

  • Pick a seat that supports your back and allows both feet to rest on the ground
  • Use a stand or a stack of books to bring your screen up to eye level
  • If using a keyboard and mouse they should be in front of you close by
  1. Reinstate boundaries

You may have put boundaries in place when you first started working from home but they may have now fizzled out. If they have, take some time to chat to who you live with, discuss how you have felt most comfortable and the ways you worked which made you most productive. 

Make sure you monitor how long tasks are taking. You could use a laundry cycle as a way to time how long you have focused on one piece of work or an app tracker to ensure you are getting the most out of your day.

  1. Take a break

If you have been working from home for a while now you may have forgotten what a usual day in the office looked like. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re working but we hope you haven’t forgotten to take a break. 

Try planning your days in the morning and add in breaks where you may have had them when working in the office. Use the time as a chance to stretch your legs, prepare some comforting soup or just give your eyes some time away from the screen.

  1. Stay Connected

If you are used to and enjoy an office environment, working from home for so long could feel isolating. You’re not alone as your other colleagues may feel the same so schedule times for a walking meeting. 

If you know you do not need to be in front of a screen for a meeting why not use it as a chance to stretch your legs. Plug in your headphones, put your trainers on and take a walk while participating in the conversation.

We hope that our tips will help you recreate a better working space that encourages productivity and creativity. 

We would also like to remind you to be kind to yourself while adapting to changes that are out of your control. 

You are doing the best you can, keep it up!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: