Technology ignorance will cost UK retailers dearly this Christmas

SME retailers risk losing out to larger retailers at Christmas by shunning technology for their business, according to new research.

Just seven per cent of SME decision makers surveyed in the retail sector invest in technology to meet peak periods, like Christmas, which could put themselves at a clear disadvantage against the online and high street giants.

As today’s major retailers like Amazon, John Lewis, and Argos gear up for the holiday shopping season, research into behaviours and attitudes in preparing for peak period sales, find 31 per cent of SME retail decision makers surveyed believe they can stay competitive by implementing longer operating hours.

The survey of more than 280 decision makers from small and mid-sized retailers from Brightpearl, a provider of retail management software for omnichannel retailers, and YouGov, also revealed that 16 per cent of decision makers from small and medium-sized retailers surveyed hire extra staff to cope with peak periods.

Researchers discovered independent retailers hire, on average, three additional seasonal staff to manage busy shopping periods.

Employing three extra staff members to help during the holiday season costs retailers, on average, £11,880 in wages alone each year. This does not include the added burden of training new staff and costs incurred from mistakes by inexperienced employees.

Derek O’Carroll, CEO at Brightpearl, says, ‘These results highlight how many retailers are neglecting to invest in technology that could save them precious time and money during their busiest period of the year.

‘This does not bode well for small and mid-sized retailers who will not be able to compete with the likes of Amazon with their Prime offering, if they continue to ignore the operational advantages that technology offers. Instead, they are turning to short-term, inefficient solutions like hiring more staff or increasing their inventory levels that may actually end up hurting their bottom line.’

Lee Adams, managing director of garden furniture specialist alexander-francis, says, ‘Before we adopted a technology platform, we really struggled to manage peak sales periods while still providing great customer service.

‘Now, we use a scalable cloud-based system which automates our inventory, financials, order processing and fulfilment processes. This means we can focus on growth rather than chasing our tails during our busiest sales periods. And, with the systems we have in place, we could probably manage to take another three or four times the number of orders without having to employ extra capacity.’

The research highlighted that a quarter of decision makers from small and mid-sized retailers surveyed would be likely to adopt a new technology solutions that helped to effectively streamline their business’ back office and inventory work.

O’Carroll, adds, ‘Forward thinking retailers need to make the most of this holiday season by using technology, such as retail automation, to take care of back office functions like processing, fulfilment, shipping and billing. Those who do will see financial savings over the long-term, and greatly free up employee time to focus on their customers.

‘Ultimately, this means independent retailers will be better able to manage increased demand and offer the level of customer satisfaction expected this Christmas.’

Retail automation technology has been shown to help retailers save the equivalent of 57.5 days a year by eliminating time spent on repetitive administrative tasks. The likelihood of negative customer service as a result of human error has also been reduced by up to 65 per cent.

Further reading on technology over Christmas

Does your business turn over between £50,000 and £500,000? If so, you are eligible for the new Small Business Grants initiative from SmallBusiness.co.uk. We’re giving away £5,000 every month in a free-to-enter competition. Apply now by clicking here. Good luck!

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

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