COVID-19 is the most significant challenge in a generation for consumer-facing businesses. UK retail has significantly suffered as a result of less spending by consumers and the fact that the majority of stores remain closed.

With coronavirus changing the way retail operates on a day-to-day basis, both staff and consumers are faced with immeasurable uncertainty. However, whilst it has brought uncertainty and unprecedented disruption, it has also prompted many businesses to change their way of working and to adopt methods of working that they had been putting off.

Digital Solutions

Consumers are turning to digital means whilst remotely working from home during the lockdown. Ecommerce has increased for grocery, household items and personal hygiene. For example, online grocery has seen a 28% increase during the pandemic. We expect the popularity of digital means to remain after lockdown, giving retailers further avenues to connect with consumers and sell their products.

Retailers have had to adopt a change in focus in a short space of time. Now is the time to adopt the changing attitude of consumers which is very much here to stay long term. 

Graham Wynn, Assistant Director for Consumer, Competition and Regulatory Affairs is leading The BRC Legal Community to promote BRC activity on Digitalisation. Called ‘Retail in the digital era’ it is a series of seminars building on a Forum held in conjunction with Said Business School, Oxford University. Each Seminar will deal with a different aspect of digital retailing – for example - AI, Online Advertising, Competition – with a view to drawing some conclusions on the best regulatory approach. We believe it is imperative that officials and regulators fully understand the needs of retail in the digital era so that innovation is not stifled by unnecessary new regulation – an issue that is under active review in Brussels, London and the USA. Should the UK align with the EU approach or the very different USA approach – or develop our own. We want to influence that debate.

Retail in the digital era

In October, the BRC legal community ran a 'retail in the digital era' conference in partnership with said business school.

There was strong agreement about the key themes that need careful attention if retailers are to maximise the success of the rollout of new technology, not least AI, and harness its benefits successfully for consumers. There was also an understanding that any new regulation needs to take into account a proportionate approach for trustworthy businesses.

Take a look at the summary here.

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Blog: Consumer Behaviour In Uncertain Times, a snapshot of trends and shifting consumer behaviours across EMEA,

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Retail Stats, Facts and Trends: COVID-19 and Retail, Tuesday, 19 MAY, 2pm

How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted the retail industry?

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Webinar: Optimising the online customer journey. With our partners at ForgeRock, this webinar from 2019 explores how retailers can effectively manage their customers’ identities to optimise the online user journey. Gain an understanding of how and what information you are collecting about your customers online and how you can use this to boost customer loyalty and ultimately growth in your online sales.

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If you are a retailer, you can benchmark your UK sales performance on a weekly basis in 20 product categories by participating in the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor (RSM) weekly scheme, which collects over half of all UK retail sales. Contact or view your benchmark here.