What does the future hold for the retail industry?

Business Impact: What does the future hold for the retail industry?
Is the retail sector a good career option for business graduates in the current climate? David Daly explains why he believes it is, drawing on the level of innovation and opportunity he sees in his role as chairman of Frasers Group

If you’ve read about the retail sector in the media in recent years then the chances are you will have seen headlines about doom and gloom on the high street. It may surprise you, therefore, to learn that despite the well-documented economic headwinds faced by retail sector, the industry continues to innovate for the future and that it is an enthusiastic employer of business graduates.

At Frasers Group, we work in partnership with the world’s biggest brands in more than 20 different countries, generating a record annual revenue of £4.8billion GBP in 2021-22. This demonstrates that far from being in decline, many parts of the retail industry are not only showing remarkable resilience, but are also investing for the long term.

The future of retail

If you wish to see the future of retail, I would encourage you to visit one of Frasers’ new flagship stores in London, Liverpool or Birmingham in the UK. These are designed to offer an experiential shopping environment that greatly enhances the customer experience. Our flagship Sports Direct store in Oxford Street, for example, was transformed last year thanks to a £10 million GBP tech-heavy investment. It now features around 100 high-definition digital screens, numerous digital touchpoints and a selfie booth. Special features within the store are constantly updated and on opening included a Jordan basketball performance challenge.

Graduate programmes

If you are interested in the prospect of a career in a fast-paced sector that constantly reinvents itself in order to meet new challenges, then we would love to hear from you.  

We recently welcomed our third annual intake of highly talented individuals into our elevation programme. This scheme is aimed at high-potential graduates who are seeking a career in commercial management. Over the last three years we have monitored the scheme and as a result, we will now also be rolling out the programme across our finance department. 

As an industry, we are aware that remuneration is one of a number of considerations that graduates will wish to take into account, along with factors such as opportunities for career advancement and our environmental and social policies as a company.

More than 150 people in our early-career talent pool are now enrolled on a retail leadership scheme and we have also introduced similar roles across our digital, technology and IT functions.

Technology and innovation

There are exciting developments in the way in which the retail industry is rapidly embracing innovative technology to improve customer experiences across digital platforms.

At Frasers Group, we are investing more than £100 million in our digital proposition across all channels, which includes platforms that will reinvent customer engagement, marketing and customer service.

Sustainability

Sustainability is another important priority that is being enthusiastically embraced by the retail sector.

Frasers Group supports the introduction of the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). This has given us a robust foundation to mitigate climate-related risks and identify future opportunities.

We have built a Sustainability Team structure with our CFO Chris Wootton as the executive sponsor and there are Sustainability Champions across the business. This includes hundreds of dedicated people across our stores who are helping to deliver against our priorities.

We forecast a 10% reduction in our UK electricity use for 2022 but were pleased to exceed this to achieve a 15% reduction (compared to a pre-pandemic baseline in 2019, measured against like-for-like stores). We have additional targets to reduce single-use plastic and improve our waste management and recycling.

We also now offer a carbon-neutral delivery option on the web. Approximately 32.1 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (Co2e) was saved by the use of this option, which we hope will continue to grow in popularity over time.

Thinking without limits

If you are wondering what we look for in successful candidates who wish to join the company, then one of the attributes that we value highly is an ability to think fearlessly without limits.

I think the best way I can explain this concept is to quote the example of Cally Price, who sits on the board of Frasers Group in order to represent the interests of colleagues. Cally originally started as a Saturday sales assistant while studying for her A Levels. She then joined us full time after graduating from university and went on to become a store manager, before being elected as a one of my fellow non-executive directors.

Cally’s advice if you want a career in retail is simple and concise: “The most important thing is to have a positive mental attitude. Be willing to learn and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. You’ll be part of a team and your colleagues will be there to support you.”

David Daly is chairman of Frasers Group, a FTSE 100-listed company that owns House of Fraser, Sports Direct and Flannels, among others.

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