Post Covid Retail – Strong decisions need great execution

As part of a series of interviews, we have been asking ‘what lessons retail should have learnt or should be learning as we deal with the ongoing pandemic’. This interview is with Retail Remedy Partner Phil Dorrell who is known for his operational insights as well as a rather uncompromising way of expressing them!

Phil are shops dwindling and likely to become museums?

The High Street is inevitably going to change, with fewer shops and brands in existence as we navigate through the next 18 months.  Whilst retailers cope with an endless barrage of tactical issues, one factor that they must consider is how they breathe life back into their ‘recut’ retail estate and what their customer will now expect from them.  My concern is that retailers will focus on the tactical stuff without an overarching plan.

What’s the difference now and what is there to learn from this?

The tactical issues facing retailers are ‘new’; what will separate success and failure is those retailers who have a plan and execute it well, versus those who let the tactical issues become the plan. Retail operations before, during and hopefully post Covid are all different challenges.  

We have built our business on supporting retailers in turn-around and our approach always starts with visioning what the goal and direction of travel is.  We look to simplify execution, reduce unnecessary activity and ensure clear channels of communication are established throughout the organisation. These steps not only save £m’s but also ensure the business is far more agile, focused and the whole organisation is able to adapt to any change much quicker. 

What tips would you offer a retail CEO now?

  1. War-game the scenarios of your own operation and the make-up of your estate and consider a best, mid and worst case on portfolio / channel incomes for next 3 months, next 12 months and next 3 years. Have an actionable plan for each eventuality. Know where you are heading.
  2. If you look around the board room and the nodding heads of friends greets your every word, then you must be a genius or are likely to fail. Broaden your teams experience or import (perhaps temporarily) a diverse skill set from outside. Cognitive Diversity is king in the land of confusion.
  3. Benchmarking against your traditional competitors is no longer.
  4. Communicate, clearly, concisely but consistently what’s happening, let people know what good looks like and celebrate like mad teams who deliver it, make them role models.
  5. Supply chain and inventory management can make or undo you, have very clear and accurate metrics on where the cost and timelines are, you may be making very bold decisions on this. Keep stock of your stock.
  6. Be consistent without being inflexible, people (team and customers) want to know you will not flip flop around on decisions, but they also want to have some recourse to decision making, make those channels clear and transparent. Incorporate broad team views before seasoned judgement.

Finally Phil, are you hopeful about the future?

Some retailers will go to the wall as they will not learn, yet the opportunity is huge for those who get this right, they can gain market share and customer loyalty like no time before.  Now is not the time to tackle everything ‘in-house’.  Businesses will reap the benefits of using the right partner to support them with activities that are not part of the day job or require complete objectivity. In our experience this speeds the journey up and saves £m’s if not the business!

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