High Street Retailers Must Act Now To Survive In An Omnichannel World

Retailtopia, the industry experts panel who recently gathered to discuss the re-engineering of the supply chain have suggested that if current high street retailers want to adapt to survive in an increasingly omnichannel world that they have to act now.
The panel aims to set out a future vision for retail, and said that many traders are still failing to grasp how urgent and the "scale of the transformation" needed for them in order to carry on in the current economic climate. Customers these days are simply demanding more in terms of consistent, high quality service from retailers across a number of different sales channels and interaction points.
Speaking afterwards, Jim Spittle, Chairman of the Retailtopia panel said that retailers had to develop a "modern, connected supply chain" which will cater for the modern consumer. He added that consumers wanted somebody that they could interact with, whether that be in store, online or over the telephone. “Failure to deliver in one of those channels makes it hard for consumers to deal with them and risks a loss of business in a competitive world” he added.
Spittle went on to say that the panel had identified two key themes for retailers to work on - those of  ‘urgency’ and ‘transformation’, for a world in which omnichannel retailed was becoming ever more popular. He commented that in such a world, barriers to customer switching disappear and that competition was fiercer than ever before due to consumer choice. “Customer loyalty is a thing of the past. The message is clear, it is time for action now”, he said.
The Retailtopia panel stated that change on larger scale was inevitable since traditional bricks and mortar retailing was completely different from the kind of support chain needed to keep omnichannel shopping going on a year to year basis.  
The process of becoming such a business requires the total re-evaluation of the wholesalers operations from the ground up. Everything from customer service through to reverse logistics needs to be restructured in a retailing sector where some businesses can expect up to 40% of their goods to be sent back.
Commenting on the situation, Emer Timmons, the President of BT Global Services UK said that it was vital supply chains took the recommendations seriously, adding that in 2012, 54 major retailers failed, which was the worst year since 2008. 4,000 stores and 48,000 employees were affected by these swingeing changes. Timmons said that “the risks of doing nothing are clear”.
“It doesn’t have to be this way” Timmons added, “By taking on board the recommendations of the panel today retailers can take a big step towards achieving the Retailtopia vision of tomorrow. Big changes of mindset would be needed – encompassing everything from embracing the online world to welcoming customers returning goods to stores and recognising that they are not creating a problem but generating more footfall and more opportunities to sell”. Timmons finished by saying that the time to act “was now”.