Category Business Diagnostics

Is Touchwood Solihull leading the way for the future of Retail?

A recent PWC report highlighted that 2018 saw the largest ‘net loss of retail stores’ on the high street.

We are consistently hearing about a retail ‘crisis’, and how difficult trading conditions suggest the high street is in demise. Our high streets and town centres are often the core of our communities and so we have invested a lot of resources investigating this issue.

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Jamie Oliver restaurant group facing administration

The news this week is that Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant Group is going into administration and to be honest when I read this headline, it really upset me. He has all the right things in place, authority as a chef, brand awareness and presence on the High Streets, so if he is struggling what does this really say about the High Streets?

If we dig deeper, in 2018 they had to close a number of sites through a CVA agreement. In an Interview with the Financial Times in 2018, he shared how things had gotten so bad that he had to put in £7.5m of his own cash overnight to save the immediate closure of the entire chain.

From the outside, it would appear that he has the profile, knowledge and financial clout to make a success, so are there some specific lessons to be learnt?

The restaurant industry is extremely competitive, but the trends say that this sector is not on the decline, it is actually holding it’s own despite the decline of the High Street. However, the Office of National Statistics reported growth on the High Street as recent as March 2019 and eating out remains a preferable option to many people.

The first thing to remember is that we should never forget to do the basics right; If you are a restaurant, then you need to ensure that you serve great food and give your guests a great overall experience. Online feedback talks about mixed quality and mixed service. Whilst you can create something great in a single location, it is often difficult to replicate it. Sometimes trying to grow too fast is a cause of failure, it means you end up diluting your brand promise.

Getting a business up and running is only part of the journey, long term success will need some evolution and changes. This is a common challenge; to scale without losing what made you great originally. As you scale up, you need to take on more staff, operate in different locations and the feedback is that the restaurants have become a little plainer and may have lost their original sparkle.

In recent years he had opened some premium restaurants, which effectively sat outside the Jamie Oliver brand, Barbeco and Fifteen were different from the existing chain, but both are closed. It could be that in trying to be different brands, they were losing their focus and identity. Jon Knight, CEO, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group eluded to this point in this comment;

‘We were opening too many restaurants, too quickly, in the wrong places. We were opening in places that weren’t university towns and didn’t have enough of a tourism element.’

I hope this does not mean the end for Jamie as a restaurateur. He has a profile and he would easily be able to create digital content that would generate interest in a new restaurant. He already has the books and TV shows, so maybe it’s a case of making more use of these assets? This is a must for most businesses today and speaking to Daniel Priestly, CEO of DENT Global on this specific issue he was very clear;

‘Personal brand is a massive fire-starter; it gets things going quickly, attracts talent and customers through the door. This initial energy has to be transferred into other assets as fast as possible though.’

Jamie Oliver definitely has a person brand that is interesting, he apparently still drives a Vesper and he is a good chef. There is no reason why this should be the end of him as a restaurateur, what he has to learn to do is take advantage of that profile and integrate it more closely into his restaurants. It could be that he needs to go back to the basics, and concentrate on a single restaurant, get in the kitchen for a bit and do what he is great at. Whatever he does next, I am sure people will get behind him, he just needs to decide if he wants to have another go or not?

‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts’. Winston Churchill.


Read the full article published HERE by Modern Retail magazine

From Attention to Retention – the Customer Journey

Once you have the attention of your target market and you have them highly engaged in all the content you are producing…what next?

Having spent a lot of your time getting your target customers attention what is next? Well hopefully, they will buy from you now; they will accept that you are good at what you do and you align with their own personal values. Up until now, it is all based on you issuing a promise to your prospect that should they follow-through and make that purchase, this is the outcome you will deliver.

I read recently a long article on HBR that stated “highly engaged customers will become loyal customers”, and it got me thinking: this is not necessarily the case. From our own real world experience, yes the two things are linked, but not dependent on each other. Some of the best marketing campaigns do not lead to long-term profit.

If we break this down, a customer is someone who buys from you and a loyal customer is someone who repeat buys from you. So no matter how engaged they are with your content and your brand, they may or may not repeat buy. They could stay engaged in order to receive the content or information because it is educational or amusing, but will they definitely maker another purchase?

This is a separate question completely and there are an increasing number of consumers out there who consume content, but do not buy.

A key realisation will happen at the point when they consume your service. This is the moment of truth, when we will really find out if you deliver on your promises. This is the point at which they decide – does the product taste as good as the packaging?

So far it has been an emotional connection, where they feel this is a good choice for the prospect to make. Now we will see the delivery of this promise. You can either fall short of the promise and maybe lose them, or you can fulfil that promise, in which case you will retain that customer for the future.

At this point, your content marketing is irrelevant; if the product does not match the packaging it will be a failure for your objectives. So no matter how good your engagement strategy is, you will not have a loyal customer.

So a few questions you may want to ask yourself:

  1. Does your team – who are delivering the service – match the passion, drive, and standards that your sales and marketing staff possess?
  2. Are you interested in this single transaction, or are you willing to treat the customer so well that they want to come back for more?
  3. What is that little bit extra or something different that you are giving that will make you stand out and be more memorable than your competition?

If you want to get loyal customers, then you need to ensure that your operations strategy is in line with your marketing. Building loyalty is not just about a single transaction – it is about many transactions. If you only measure your team on turnover or profit, then there is no reason for them to worry about repeat business. The reality is that the returning customer will firstly buy quicker, and secondly buy bigger or more than they bought last time, because they already know and trust you.

So if you are thinking that engaged customers will always lead to loyal customers, think again. Consider instead that delighted customers will be what leads to loyalty. 

Read the full blog here;

CustomerExperienceMagazine/Naeem Arif


The 7 Trends taking over the High Street

2019 looks set to break the boundaries between digital and physical retail. Smartphones give consumers 24 hour access to the digital world, eMarketer predicts 38% of retail e-commerce sales will take place on a mobile device by 2018. The lines between purchasing in store and online are starting to blur, with many consumers using both mediums to create a new form of retail shopping. Many consumers now look to order online through smartphones and pickup in store.

The evolving technology and e-commerce trends present retailers with many challenges; however, for those savvy retailers the chance to transform the standard of customers experience is there to be taken.

Here are the seven retail trends of 2019 that show how interconnected the shopping experience has become for consumers.

Connected Commerce

The modern consumer doesn’t distinguish between online or offline shopping; they consider it all as ‘shopping’. What this means for retailers is that consumers will want to order groceries on their smartphone or desktop and pick them up from the nearest store or pay for gifts in store and have them delivered to their homes. For this reason, retailers should create experiences so frictionless that consumers don’t think about how the process is happening.

To ensure that the customer experience runs smoothly, retailers need to stop looking at their physical stores and online presence as separate entities and look to create a seamless omni-channel experience. In order to create an omni-channel experience, products are synced across all channels and ‘troubleshoot’ their customer’s journey to ensure every step is smooth.


Consumers are using mobile devises in all aspects of life, particularly when deciding on how they will purchase online or in-person. The improvements to fintech have seen an explosion of contactless payment options in-stores. The UK Cards Association reporting that shoppers spent £2.32 billion last year using contactless payments, and this figure is set to grow. The popularity of mobile use increases and retailers need to embrace the move to a more seamless payment experience.

With the ever growing use of mobile wallets (Apple, Android and Samsung) retailers are pushing more contactless payment methods into stores. Visa Europe state that mobile payments will reach over £1.2 billion per week by 2020. This is why so many retailers see the opportunity that contactless payments can make. With a quicker payment process consumers may look to stay and spend when they might otherwise be put off by long wait times.

Data and Analytics

Data and analytics is nothing new in the world of ecommerce, however, brick and mortar stores have been able to achieve the same level of data analysis with the introduction of technologies including; people counters and instore analytics.

Brick and mortars are now able to achieve the same level of data analysis, helping them move away from operations-driven methods such as; doorway counters and transactional data. The introduction of technology like Walkbase, uses a Wi-Fi based system to ping devices with Wi-Fi enabled (smartphones or tablets). This system tracks customers in stores, identifying patterns in behaviour.

Retailers can use the information provided to test the impact of merchandising and the store layouts that produce more sales and better customer flow.

Understanding where customers will go in stores helps retailers to identify areas of the store that are visited frequently and areas they are not. This allows stores to plan merchandising and push new products in areas with higher foot traffic.

Retail Security and Loss-Prevention Solutions

The increase of devices connected to the internet has forced retailers to be increasingly reliant on mobile devices; a system crash could be devastating to all retailers no matter how big or small.

In the event of data breaches, retailer’s websites and POS systems present a huge concern to retailers and customers. Tripwire’s research suggests retailers are being overconfident in their ability to detect and prevent breaches, making them more vulnerable.

The implementation of breach detection tools like anti-virus software, intrusion detection systems, malware detection, white listing and file-integrity monitoring software. Tripwires research shows, 59% of retail respondents admitted that their breach detection tools we only partially implemented. Despite the increasing risks in recent years, a large majority of retailers have failed to ensure security measures are prepared. Looking at how to develop security offline to prevent theft from shoplifters and even employees require implementing video cameras, with the aim to identify thieves and to deter them.

Video analytics and improved surveillance technology is helping retailers of all sizes to improve security. With advanced video surveillance system, monitoring in-store movements of customers and staff. Analytics programs can detect patterns and alert security teams to suspicious behaviour.

Shoppable Content

Shoppable content will become a hot topic in 2019, with consumers looking for a more unique experience. Personalised journeys through social media commerce such as Pinterest ‘buy buttons’ and direct links on Instagram and Twitter will be a key object for many retailers, particularly those in fashion, partly due to millennials entering prime spending years. Enabling shoppers to make purchases from any location will satisfy their instant gratification needs and will also help cater to their lifestyle through a frictionless and enjoyable purchase process.

Connecting with customers through combining publishing with commerce has been used by retailers for years, with the creation of blogs and social media content. As this becomes more sophisticated, retailers are beginning to realise that content creation can’t just be used to attract and entertain customers, it needs to convert them.

This is where shoppable content creates purchasing and browsing, with customers able to add to their virtual shopping cart without interrupting the content they were expecting. What makes shoppable content different from traditional content is that customers can use pop-ups to choose item quantity, size or colour without them leaving the content they are currently viewing. This creates a frictionless process allowing customers to travel through multiple web tabs and lose track of where they want to be.

Retail Management Solutions

Many would argue that retailers have been too focused on the consumer, with mobile marketing, location based marketing, proximity marketing, apps, mobile commerce, social media, channel development etc. Whilst this can be beneficial, some retailers have lost focus on what their stores can offer. Simply having technology that engages and inspires customers is great, but retailers need technology that helps create efficient and effective operations, increase profitability and enhance the customer experience.

Retailers now must look at how to leverage technology to better support their network stores. Systems that can improve communication between stores and head office, retailers will gain greater insight into the issues and barriers to operational excellence.

Real-time dashboards provide a snapshot view of the state of the chain providing retailers with the analysis showing the root causes of recurring issues. Retailers can be more effectively supporting their stores and quickly eliminate the problems that constantly tie up managers and staff. Improving the way stores operate allows store teams to feel more motivated and empowered when they know that once a concern is raised, an appropriate resolution is actually actioned.

For retailers to stay competitive they need to remember their frontline staff. These are the people delivering the brand experience to customers every day. Retailers can use technology to better understand what’s happening in their stores and use this information to protect and improve customer experience, which will help strengthen customer loyalty.

Fulfillment tech

Consumers are spending more and more time discovering and researching products online and often these consumers still want to fulfil their orders with local pickups. This presents retailers with an opportunity for online to local shopping experience. Retailers can look to improve their online to local purchasing by ensuring that in-stock products are discoverable online and available for click and collect purchasing.

Retailers who look to use modern EPOS (electronic points of sale) systems are increasingly seeing value over time. The newer generations of EPOS are enabling shops to easily access and benefit from third party services, who have integrated with EPOS. Services like XeroLoyalZooMailChimp and PocketHighStreet technologies are adding value to local shops. Customer expectations are now higher than ever before due to the amount of times and money being spent online.

Fulfilment Technology allows high streets retailers to reach a huge number of customers, who research and discover products online but still prefer to buy locally. Click and collect offer shoppers the convenience of searching online to find in stock products saving time visiting a store and being disappointed. The click and collect service is shown to be far more popular in the UK with 35% of online shoppers having used the service compared to the 13% in the US and 5% in Germany. This figure looks set to jump to 76% over the next three years, as the desire for convenience and speed is becoming the biggest drive of fulfilment trends.

The increase in online and local pick-up and delivery has seen some customers expecting delivery within one day with an online order. Delivery apps and local courier services are making same-day delivery possible for all retailers no matter how small. As this type of shopping increases high street retailers must see the possibility for upselling, either through desktop or mobile app and when customer pick up orders.

Retailers must remember that customers expect a seamless experience regardless of the channel they are using. Whether the customers experience is digital or in-store, it needs to be consistent. To take advantage of new fulfilment technologies retailers must streamline their process rather than simply adding a new service. If a brand was to see its delivered promises being delayed or interrupted by clunky fulfilment systems, this will fall short of the customer’s expectation.


Read the full article HERE  As published by the Asian Today


Recruit to Grow Your Business, not to just increase your team size

Recruit to Grow Your Business, not to just increase your team size

Recruitment is an important skill for an SME. For small organisations, adding an extra person could be as big as 50% of your organisation. When asked, I always advice to be very careful in recruitment into SME’s. Think about recruitment, not just to add more hands to the pump – SME’s need people to be multi skilled, so you need to look beyond your current issue.

It is all too easy to think, we are really busy and we need another person to help out. Often, busy periods are temporary and you end up recruiting based on that issue. Once that issue is resolved, will that person have the skills to take the team forward? They may become an expensive distraction for the business owner or face being out of a job simply because the business thought recruitment was the answer…an expensive answer?

When I recruit I look at how the incoming person can bring in something different, either in skills, attitude or experience to what I have in the team already. If you want to move your business forward, you need to think a bit more aggressively in your recruitment. This is why it is really important to think above the longer term,  where do I want to be in 6, 12 and 36 months time? Sometimes you see people recruit people with the same skills, because thats what they are comfortable. I would rather bring in people with different or better skills and then manage them, than be the most intelligent or most skilled person in my organisation. 

Based on that, consider who the right person could be to bring into your organisation that could fit into the medium and longer term goals. So if you do this right, the person comes into your organisation, learns the business by mucking in with the short term problem and now is still valuable to work on the next project you want them to get involved with.

Remember – sometimes recruitment is not the only answer. Often if you need 30% extra from a couple of your team members to cover a busy time, then you are better placed to offer them overtime to cover that, so just recruiting for the short term is better served with a short term contract. Sometimes you already have high performers in the team who are able to do more, you just need to give them a chance and as they know the business, they can do it at 20% of the cost, instead of the 30% you would pay a new person.

Finding a better way to manage your current resources more effectively is the first correct step. Recruitment is an expensive and often a lengthy step; on average it costs £ X K to recruit and train just 1 new employee into an organisation when it would cost much less to upskill an existing team member who has the right mindset and desire to improve not just themselves but to make a better difference to the organisation. Team expansion does not always equate to business growth or success.

This does not mean that an organisation should never recruit. Always know when to recruit. There is such a thing as natural attrition and succession planning. Time spent in a specific job role does tend to have an average “life-span”. Plan and regularly manage the lifespan in a role, which involves stages such as team-onboarding, progression, upskilling, managing shifts and much more. Know the capacity, skill-set, ability and desire of each individual within your team before heading for the recruitment option. On the other side of the coin, also know when it is better to bring in “new-blood” for a fresh perspective, new dynamics to the team and approach to the business. You don’t want to appear haphazard through fast recruitment to put out short-term fires neither do you want your team to become stale as teams often do, it’s a normal stage in the lifespan of any job role.

So when should you recruit? Here are a few times for when recruitment is the right option;

  • New Business coming in which is outside of the current capacity of your team
  • New / specific skill-set required not already available within the organisation and upskilling will take too much time to the detriment of business objectives and growth
  • Business expansion such as additional premises and so staff will be required to work at those locations rather than have travel between different locations
  • For cultural change: face it, often long-term employees maintain the status-quo. Change becomes undesirable to them as it can seem threatening, be outside of their comfort zone and because they become comfortable. They may even be “cruising to retirement”. Many an organisation has been known to bring in “new-blood” to redirect internal culture and vision for the betterment of the entire organisation. There are sometimes unfortunate and yet necessary “side-effects” of such changes to previous employees / leadership teams.