In the third of our BRC Learning webinar series we welcomed Consultant, Writer and Future Thinker, Neil Gibb to explore the impact that COVID-19 has had on our sector and how can we collectively create a different future. We were also delighted to welcome our very own Head of Retail Insights and Analytics, Kyle Monk to share a few key facts about the impact on our industry.

Here are the key takeaways from Kyle:

  • Impact on footfall - following the start of the nationwide lockdown on 23rd March footfall dropped 90% across town centres and shopping centres. However some retail parks were less affected as they included supermarkets which stayed open.
  • Not all retail sectors have been hit equally - while Fashion retail sales have dropped as much as 85%, Computing sales have increased as people have updated their home offices but also purchased equipment to keep families entertained.
  • May's trading figures - the results from May indicated a decline but it wasn't as large as many had predicted. Despite 83% of all physical stores being closed, overall sales were down 5.9%, with non-food sales down 20%. Prior to lockdown 80% of all retail spending was made in-store rather than online.

Kyle leads the team of BRC experts who regularly report on industry trends and act as the benchmark for UK retail. For more information please visit the BRC Insight Community page.

Here are the key takeaways from Neil:

  • 'There are no experts in the future, there are only experts in the past' - Jack Ma - at times like this there can be no precise predictions.
  • We are in the 3rd major social transformation of the modern era - we're currently in a period of major disruption where our traditional ways of working are not fit for purpose, the result is adaptation which leads to social transformation.
  • A shift in focus on Maslow's hierarchy of needs - pre-COVID-19 the focus for retailers would have been the top 3 layers of the hierarchy: Love and Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualisation. In the wake of the pandemic consumers focus has shifted to the lowest most basic two: Physiological needs (food, water shelter) and Safety needs (health, employment and security). The attention on these is likely to remain for a period even when lockdown ends.
  • Having a purpose - as we emerge into the new world it will be even more important that people have a sense of being part of something that is bigger than themselves. Something that's important, something that's purposeful and meaningful. Neil referred to the case study of Rapha - a sportswear and lifestyle brand focused on road cycling. They appealed to the self-actualisation needs of their target market, those who are serious road cyclists. Their campaign - 'glory through suffering' - positioned the brand as a cycling community and enabled their clients to feel part of something bigger.
  • The Participation Revolution - our economy is shifting from one of consumption to one of participation. The retail brands who are expanding rapidly are those who are not just selling to customers but helping them participate in something that's meaningful and matters to them.
  • Bucking the trend - in Neil's second case study he highlighted Rough Trade - despite being a record and bookseller (an industry heavily disrupted by online trading) this brand has expanded year on year. They're successful because they've appealed to their target market and created a community hub that includes in-store activities, the promotion of new music and regular in-store performances.
  • Build customer esteem - when consumers take part in a community activity it appeals to the Esteem portion of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
  • Social retailing - during lockdown when customers have been isolated stores actually became social hubs. Whilst their purpose has been to provide essential goods they were one of the few places people would actually interact socially. In the two case studies - Rapha and Rough Trade this was a particular attraction for customers. Both sell the vast majority of their products online but have positioned their stores as social centres for their customers. They become a meeting place for their target customer. This fulfils the Love and Belonging portion of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
  • 3 key elements: Purpose - Participation - Belonging - if you can create a brand with a purpose, that is participatory and gives people a sense of belonging then consumers become deeply connected with your organisation. Those who do this will have not just 'customers' but 'fans' and that is far more powerful.

View the recording of the webinar here.


The Impact on ‘Our World’ with Paul Anderson-Walsh, Co-Founder of The Centre for Inclusive Leadership - Wednesday 17th June | 2pm – 3:30pm

During the next session we will be exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the human experience. What does this mean for the way we behave, the way that we work and the way that we live?

Attendees will gain:

  • New insights into how individuals can work collectively and inclusively to create positive change as the world adapts to a new normal
  • An understanding into how the crisis has fundamentally changed the way that we live and work
  • An exploratory view into the role that we can all play in creating a mindset change in leading a very different future