Retailers and academics discuss sector’s future

Panel members

Questions around the challenges and opportunities facing retailers were tackled by academics and industry figures at a University of Stirling event on 3 March.

‘Armageddon or Reinvention?’ was the inaugural Retail Futures Lecture hosted by Stirling Management School’s Institute for Retail Studies. It was delivered by Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium.

Dickinson said it was a “time of evolution” for retailers as they faced a “unique set of circumstances”.

She highlighted the failure of pay rises to keep pace with inflation and the impact that had on retail: “In 2019 alone, there were 9,169 store closures and 85,000 job losses in the sector – resulting in more than 10% of high street shops being vacant.”

Retailers had to adapt in the face of change, she said, concluding that those who invested in new technologies “will be well positioned to capitalise on opportunities.”

Following Dickinson’s lecture, she was joined by SGF President-elect Dan Brown, Colin Temple (MD of Schuh), Wilkies boss Karen Forret and Gillian Crawford (Founder of Lily Blanche) for a panel discussion and questions from the audience.

The discussion was chaired by Professor Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal (Education and Students) of the University of Stirling and Professor of Retail Studies at Stirling Management School.

Sparks said: “Retailing is being reinvented and reimagined. Operators and governments are grappling with various cost and other challenges. Closer working together could usefully enhance the reshaping of the sector to enhance the service to consumers and improve the sustainability of the sector.”