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The Future of Retail

With many retailers reporting strong sales figures for the end of 2022, and the number of vacant UK shops falling what can retailers do to get the best from a more customer-facing workforce?

In 2020, when the global pandemic hit, most retail outlets were forced to shut their doors. Many observers began talking about the end of brick-and-mortar retail, speaking of a shift in how people shopped. Some predicted that stuck-at-home consumers would become hooked on the convenience of online shopping and that physical stores would disappear altogether. It didn’t work out like that, though, as shoppers flocked back to stores post Covid-19 restrictions, rediscovering the joys of being able to touch and try products before buying.

The number of vacant shops in the UK fell for the fifth consecutive quarter, and although the pandemic accelerated online shopping, the Office for National Statistics showed a clear shift back towards shopping in-store last year. Some companies that bet big on online shopping growth were forced to make redundancies. Despite economic issues, bricks-and-mortar is showing signs it will continue to grow during 2023, powered partly by direct-to-consumer brands looking to make a physical connection with customers.

Up to 81 percent of Gen Z consumers like to purchase in-store, with most also preferring visiting stores to discover and trial new products. (Forbes)

But this doesn’t mean that online businesses will fade. Instead, we will see a blending between online and in-person, with retail stores serving as spaces for retailers to interact with customers and fulfil online orders. Physical retail is having somewhat of a renaissance, and the landscape isn’t just shifting back towards the traditional; it is more significant than that. No longer will retailers talk about online competing with in-person; there is a future in retail for both, and that is what retailers need to accept and move with if they want to stay in the conversation.

One strategy that has been gathering steam amongst retailers is to offer unique in-person experiences that cannot be replicated online. For example, winter apparel brand Canada Goose created a “cold room” in its Boston store where customers could test out their parka jackets at temperatures as low as -27 degrees.

But retailers don’t have to go to the extremes that Canada Goose has. Sporting goods retailer Decathlon is a brand that has embraced the in-store experience without having to shift its business model too far. The retailer’s “Experience Stores” allow customers to “discover, touch, try and feel” its products and services, with dedicated spaces to try sports equipment and experience virtual reality test zones that simulate camping.

But with a clear focus on in-store experiences, what must retailers do to ensure they have enough staff on board, with the right mindset, to keep customers happy and maintain the highest levels of customer service? Ensuring that staff are happy and engaged in their roles and the importance of customer engagement cannot be overstated.

Employee engagement strategies have been proven to reduce staff turnover, improve productivity and efficiency, retain customers at a higher rate and raise profits. When your people are engaged, it infuses everything they do with purpose, energy and enthusiasm.

At Murray, we know that a well-designed, well-fitted uniform is crucial for motivation and engagement and can make employees feel more confident with customers. Our research and experience have taught us that employees who are better motivated and more confident feel more professional. These employees have a greater chance of shoppers interacting with them and asking for advice, and the results of these interactions lead to better customer experiences.

With more retailers looking towards in-store experiences and customer-facing roles, the benefits of a well-designed, well-fitted uniform are clear. But it isn’t just about keeping staff engaged and customers satisfied; a robust and cohesive brand image starts with the people on the shop floor.

If you’d like to find out more or hear about our research report “Uniform Impact on Employee Wellbeing and Productivity”, please email

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