David Wild, CEO of bike & car parts retailer Halfords, has compared the current revolution in modern retailing to the introduction of sound to cinema, in a public speech this week.
Technology, consumer shopping behaviour and value expectations are changing so fundamentally at present, according to Wild, that retailers must adapt or be left behind.
Web enabled shoppers are now the norm, and the rise of social media and general economic stagnation have led consumers to be better informed and more demanding in regards to value for money.
“The UK retail sector is experiencing a transformation as far reaching as the move the silent film to sound,” Wild said at a Javelin Conference this week.
“Retailers need to respond to the changes in technology and customer behaviour. We are living through the biggest transformation the retail sector has ever seen. The good news is that there is potential to turn this challenge into an opportunity.”
Key to seizing this opportunity, along with developing a strong ecommerce platform, appears to be working out what this new type of customer requires from a store environment, with Halfords seeing 87 per cent of its online sales collected in store.
Wild believes that Halfords investment in store renovation, customer service training and its new Autocentres format means the retailer can deliver that compelling offer that will attract the increasingly choosy shopper.
Like many other businesses in the sector Halfords has seen its trading decline in recent times, with third quarter results posted in January showing a 4.8 per cent slide in like-for-like sales and its profits for the first half down 20.4 per cent year-on-year.
The transformation of the retail sector has not been easy for Halfords but Wild argues that the company now understands this new consumer as is adapting its operations to suit its needs.
“Product pricing is also very important,” added Mr Wild, “The web means there is complete transparency and customers can easily find the best offer. We are creating extra value through the design and direct sourcing of our own or exclusive brands.”
“Retailing has always been about understanding the customer so we need to adapt fast to the way they are now shopping. Retailing is not going to return to how it used to be, this is a new reality.”