Smarter innovation is required for retailers to thrive

25 October 2013

Barry Moles

Barry Moles


Although 2013 has seen an upward trajectory in the fortunes of UK manufacturing and its sectors, the nation’s retail industry has remained in a challenging situation. It has found itself in that most unenviable of positions: vying for business in a turbulent economic market while also having to factor in a reduction of costs and cutting of inefficiencies.

And, yet, encouragingly, retailers and the manufacturers creating their goods have found innovative methods of reducing negatives and working towards stronger positions.

More collaboration between retailers and manufacturers

With the economic landscape remaining tempestuous, innovation and collaborating effectively with manufacturers has taken on greater prominence. While there is no silver bullet solution, the consensus suggests that by taking a collaborative-oriented approach, retailers and manufacturers will see results.
The retail game has changed, and both retailers and manufacturers need to identify mutual opportunities to achieve better shopper understanding and marketing. This has been prominent in high street fashion stores, with stores collaborating with luxury designers, and with food brands such as Proctor & Gamble brand Pringles releasing a ‘Great British Flavours’ range through retail giant Tesco in 2010.

Not only do such moves improve margins, but also attract and engage with customers to form long-term relationships. And it is these relationships that remain the lifeblood of the industry.

With ever evolving customer tastes coupled with the changing approaches towards obtaining and consuming goods, enhancing flexibility to meet demands is key. This will include a continuation of niche ranges growing by the year, such as gluten-free, low GI and world foods.

Total technology recall

The other vital component towards retail’s long-term health lies in technological innovation. Increased automation and software to control the process at production level brings the benefit of eliminating the potential hazards manual risk and human error. The automation of the share and reuse of information across product lines has also ensured manufacturers can increase workflow on products.

Automated recording also helps identify any product issues and facilitate effective product recalls.

Collaboration between manufacturer and retailer ensures a better managing of potential product recalls, which if executed poorly, can have a damaging effect on a company’s brand reputation. It’s an often used example, but one only has to refer back to the horse meat scandal of recent years to find the potentially damaging impacts on retailers, manufacturers and even other parts of its supply chain.

While an infamous example of this was this year’s horsemeat scandal, the recurrence of recalls in the food and to a lesser extent, textile industries means facilitating its possibility is as fundamental to a product as its manufacturing and marketing.

Retail, an early adopter of the increasingly influential cloud software platform, has seen integration between financial and physical supply chain processes increase, giving it the agility and scope to manage such issues more effectively than ever before.

As one of the industries disrupted on the largest scale in the last decade, a vastly reshaped retail industry is entering a new phase of its life. And, to maintain, expand and achieve prosperity in that lifespan, its need for technological and customer innovation remains paramount.

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About the author

Barry Moles


I am a retail expert, having spent more than 20 years in numerous managerial and operational roles including merchandise, supply chain, finance and marketing.

I bring a unique hands-on perspective to advising clients having worked in every retail category (food, electrical, clothing, telecoms, pharmacy, charity) across all consumer channels (out of town, online, shopping centres, department stores, concessions and outlet villages) for major retailers in the United Kingdom.

My passion, amongst many hot topics facing retailers, is helping senior executives and their teams plan and run omni-channel retail strategies.

When I am not with a client, I can either be found on the high street or travelling the world with my family.

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