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Do some of the big retailers deserve to survive the credit crunch?

Posted: 19/12/2008 17:52:07 (Updated: 24/12/2008)
by Sarah Gray
Why I feel that the high street retailers are letting themselves down and may yet suffer the same fate as Woolworths.

Over the last few days I, like most of the population of this country, have been hitting the shops buying gifts for friends and family.

Apart from wondering if the great British public have had their heads in the clouds over the last few months (as everyone seems to be spending as much as ever) another thing struck me about our well known retail chains.

Having completed more than ever of my purchases online this year, I did not have a great deal left to buy. And yet everywhere I went, the queues were so long and in most cases this was because most of the pay points were not occupied by store staff.

If this was just one store, I could maybe understand it. Of those that seemed to have put all their pay desks in one place (as seems to have become so popular these days) the long queue seemed to exist at almost all outlets that I visited.

Now one thing that puts me off purchasing from any retailer is when I have to stand in a long queue just for the privilege of purchasing one or more items. Do they think that we do not matter? Or that our time is not important as theirs? And when we reach the end of the line, we get to pay for this privilege!

Given that retailers are supposed to be so desperate for our business, it appears that they are not really doing a great deal to retain our custom or ensure that we return.

As someone who in the past has worked with some of these large retailers at the highest levels of management, when they seemed so concerned about how to get us to part with our cash by increasing brand loyalty, I have some experience in the area of customer relationship management (CRM).

Obviously I have no issue with the individual store staff who are just doing what they are asked by the management. However, especially at this time of year, when their stores will obviously be busier than ever, is really that difficult for the management to understand the basics of what will convert people that come into their store into happy customers that will return again and again?

Unless they start to improve our experience in these stores, online retailers will continue to erode into the High Street business. The retailers with expensive real estate and large numbers of staff are never going to compete on price with online stores. Where they can survive is by improving the experience when we do visit their outlets.

Otherwise, in few years we could find the high streets being sold off to property developers for residential accommodation. By then it will probably be just in time for house prices to pick up again!

And then it will be too late for the retailers and some of them will go the same way as Woolworths because not enough people are passing through their doors.

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