All of us working in retail understand that our industry is facing ongoing challenges. Challenges that for some have proved impossible to overcome.
High street closures are at their highest level since monitoring began in 2010 and footfall continues its slow steady decline. But with a strong will to change and help from ground-breaking tech, exciting growth opportunities are within our grasp.
This year’s Planning and Productivity: The WFM Forum embraced this spirit. Delegates had the chance to listen and learn, share ideas and insights, and plan promising collaborations.
Colleagues from across the retail world gathered to get to grips with what the future looks like and the tools we all need to thrive, not simply survive. Companies represented included Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Walmart, John Lewis, Wilkinson’s, Specsavers and Whitbread.
From the potential of facial recognition technology to the nuts and bolts of successful WFM implementations, our expert speakers inspired us all to look ahead with confidence and determination.
The Six Rules of Retail
Our keynote speaker, retail transformation expert Oliver Banks, took to the stage first. After a physical demonstration of how profits are dwindling, courtesy of a £20 note being set alight, he shared his six rules of retail with us:
- Have a purpose
- Make it happen
- Love your customers
- Use the intel
- Build the family
- Stay nimble
At the heart of these is the belief that now is the time to transform. With a strong will to change, an achievable approach and the right people to do it, transformation becomes possible.
Quoting ‘retail heroes’ from King Gillette to Jeff Bezos, Oliver also shared wisdom from those who have been there and done that, little nuggets of advice to inspire and motivate.
According to Oliver, the key to delivering what customers are demanding comes from Harry Selfridge, once known as the ‘earl of Oxford Street’:
“People will sit up and take notice of you if you sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.”
Walmart’s WFM Journey
Next up was Rory Graham, Workforce Management and Scheduling Specialist at Walmart, who shared insights into the company’s epic workforce management project.
Spanning over 11,000 stores in 27 countries, the supermarket giant is currently revolutionising the workplace for 2.2 million associates. Using JDA’s WFM platform, implemented by an expert team from REPL, Walmart is spearheading fundamental and essential change across their global operations.
Rory highlighted best practice methods, including how to engage with employees to facilitate the change management process and the tech they’re embracing to ramp up human productivity.
His comprehensive progress report inspired plenty of retail colleagues in the room who took the opportunity to ask many pertinent questions.
Round Table Discussions
This year saw a new feature: six round table discussions to spark debate and share ideas. The topics covered included:
- How will disruptive technology such as AI, machine learning and robotics shape the future of work?
- The importance of health and well being for a productive workforce.
- What WFM innovations will drive business benefit in the next few years?
- The productivity and customer experience dilemma.
- Driving change from productivity insights.
- Implementation planning and project lessons.
Hosted by experts including REPL’s executive chairman Mike Callender and CEO Cerys Johnson, everyone joined in with the discussions and got up from the tables armed with fresh insight.
The Latest Footfall Facts
Retail intelligence expert Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, shared a footfall update and made her predictions for the year ahead.
Her stats-packed presentation gave us the low-down on trends so far this year, data that allows us all to make more informed decisions.
We heard how footfall patterns have changed recently, which retail sectors are enjoying higher footfall and which are seeing less, and how online sales currently compare with bricks and mortar ones.
Diane also described how Springboard’s new facial recognition technology can provide unprecedented data about individual shoppers and employees. From dwell and queueing times to precise demographics such as gender, age and sentiment (are they feeling happy, sad, calm or confused?), valuable insights can be gathered to fine tune and personalise your offering.
Equipped with information about not only how many people enter your store but who these people are, Diane explained how all retailers can target exactly the right audience.
Questions Posed to the Panel
Chaired by Simon Hedaux, co-founder of our co-sponsors ReThink, this year’s panel discussion focused on three key questions:
- Why do good projects go wrong?
- What three things should companies do before starting tech/productivity projects?
- What tech are you most excited about and how will this impact your business?
Diane Wehrle and Oliver Banks were joined by Schuh’s retail director Phil Whittle, Lisa Perez, resource and planning manager at Screwfix, and Pamela Withers, head of operational delivery, food and beverage at the National Trust.
Together with delegates, they explored the questions in depth, stressing the importance of getting buy-in for change from all employees and clear communication to maximise engagement.
They also shared their plans to embrace more tech, from new WFM systems to apps like Klarna which allows customers to pay for their purchase in four monthly instalments.
With plenty of interaction and ideas-exchanging, there were some great discussions about how to keep moving forward while bringing your entire team with you.
Mastering Employee Engagement
The next session was led by James Bolle of purpose at work consultants Prpsfl and Sue Hedaux, co-founder of productivity specialists ReThink.
Together they explored the all-important link between employee engagement and productivity, sharing tips and best practice to get it right.
Discussing how engagement acts as a mediating factor between the resources you’ve got and the results you want, their joint expertise shed plenty of light on this essential area.
Finally, M&S’s head of labour planning Andy Incles enlightened the room about the retailer’s shift towards creating a digital workplace.
He described how the company’s aim is to provide all employees with easy access to information, clear communication and a sense of community to promote productivity and happiness.
Their transformational change is coming in the form of one cohesive platform to achieve this, replacing multiple methods that needed streamlining.
This year’s WFM Forum highlighted that the opportunities to buck high street trends are there for the taking. Overhauling outdated systems, prioritising customer experience, gathering more insightful data and engaging employees are all essential components in a necessary new approach to retail.