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Retail Think Tank

What does the future hold for our beloved retail stores?

December 2017

  • Despite the challenges, physical stores will remain for the foreseeable future, but their form and function will undoubtedly change
  • Stores will become much more about experience and true retail theatre
  • Many retailers have around 25% too much physical space


Many questions hang over the future direction of retail in the UK, but perhaps the one closest to the hearts of many, is what the future holds for the role of the traditional retail store. This was the primary question that the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank (RTT) set out to discuss when its members met in October 2017.

There was widespread agreement among the RTT members that the physical store, in some shape or form, was here to stay. However, as James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, pointed out: “…store closures and bankruptcies attract headlines and make it difficult to argue against the view that retailing faces many challenges”.

One of these challenges is of course the changing way in which retailers are utilising physical space. So what opportunities or threats do they face and what might its role be in the future?

What is driving this change and what does it mean for the role of the store?

To understand the picture more fully, it is perhaps best to take a look at the drivers of change in this context. The most commonly cited factors the RTT members pointed to were how the rise of online, mobile and click-and-collect was carving out a new retail landscape ahead.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, stated that: “In the UK, approximately 20% of all transactions are now conducted online, and when taking the end-to-end customer journey into account, the online channel influences 90% or more of purchases across many categories”. With such a staggering influence, he highlighted the increasing pressure this places on the physical retail model as it stands.

This pressure, or influence, has meant “the role of the store has fundamentally evolved”, according Jonathan De Mello, Head of Retail Consultancy, Harper Dennis Hobbs. He added that stores are no longer just about making money, “…they have become physical manifestations of a brand”, as the importance of online retail as a distribution channel grows.

James Sawley, Head of Retail and Leisure at HSBC, expanded upon this point, highlighting the rise of multichannel retail, with shoppers increasingly taking advantage of multiple channels simultaneously. As an example, he said: “…take apparel & footwear, [it’s] the largest online category [by value], but still 90% of clothing consumers shop online and in-store”. This, he believes, reinforces the fact that utilising multiple channels “…significantly increases [a retailer’s] addressable market and enables retailers to build their brand in a physical (more engaging) environment, rather than just digitally”.

Far from marking the demise of the physical store, many of the RTT members pointed to the online-only retailers who were establishing their presence on the high street – Missguided and Joe Brown’s to name just a few recent converts. In fact, the majority of members thought such moves were testament to the continued need for physical stores in the future.

Paul Martin stated that stores play a crucial role “as the bridge between the physical and the digital world”, with some stores being used as distribution hubs, whilst others are being used to cater for consumers increasing appetite for experience-led retail. Added to this, Jonathan De Mello suggested that retail businesses often view their real estate – particularly their flagship stores – as a tangible extension of their brand.

Over and above the impact resulting from the rise of online, the RTT members also put customer-centricity, changing consumer behaviour and the growing desire for experience at the heart of their discussions – noting the prominent role these currently play in determining the future purpose of stores.

Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said that: “Good stores have always been places where customers can receive expert advice about the products [a retailer] sells. Nowadays though, most product details are available on the web and shoppers often find, having done their research online, that they know more about the products than sales assistants”.

He stressed that the future of the store has to go beyond being a centre of expertise or a place to simply transact, adding that: “The future success of the store is not just about the what, it is also about the who”, pointing to the crucial need for a store to recruit passionate staff who drive consumer engagement and “…bring back that loving feeling between stores and their shoppers”. Indeed, Martin Hayward stressed that in a world where everyone is trying to remove friction from a sales process, the simple pleasure of interacting with staff must not be overlooked.

Elsewhere, RTT members highlighted that the future of the store could be more akin to a show room, perhaps even leveraging the latest technologies, whether that be virtual reality, augmented reality, smart mirrors or even digital screens.

Convenience was also a key driver of change, as Maureen Hinton of GlobalData pointed out. She referred to the Chinese retailer, BingoBox, which operates with no human presence, with payment for goods simply collected by smart phones. She highlighted the growing trend of consumers looking to just “pick up goods and go, as your phone does the checking in and paying automatically”. However, Maureen also stressed whilst some retail categories place convenience at the heart of their stores, others would pursue experience and this would vary greatly across the different retail categories.

In a similar vein, Mike Watkins, Head of Retailer and Business Insight at Nielsen, pointed to how consumers have become more diverse and are channel agnostic, with this being especially disruptive in grocery retail sector. He pointed to shoppers making purchases from supermarkets over four times a week, with daily touchpoints in food-to-go and food service. Like Maureen Hinton, he reinforced the impact convenience is having on the traditional role of the store. Indeed, Martin Newman suggested that the increase in online grocery and local convenience was driving a “shop more often, buy less” approach, which detracts from the relevance of the superstore.

In the course of discussions, these drivers pointed to one key theme. There was widespread agreement among the RTT members that irrespective of which drivers were prompting a rethink of how retail stores are being used; retailers currently hold too much physical retail space. Most suggested a surplus real estate portfolio of around 25 per cent, but it was also suggested that non-food categories – given their prominence online – may be more susceptible to having too much physical space.

Surmising some of the key factors behind this surplus, James Knightley, suggested that: “…property valuations, technological advances and faster, more efficient methods of delivery to consumer’s homes [all] mean that less stock needs to be held. This suggests that the size of the store can become smaller…and cheaper”.

Moreover, members also suggested that the recent business rate hikes earlier in the year will have prompted a revaluation of the need for so much physical space. Albeit, the recent Autumn Budget relieved some concerns with the tax now measured using retail price index (RPI) instead of consumer price index (CPI), and revaluations occurring every three years, instead of five.

When asked what retailers might do with the excess space, some members suggested that it would be snapped up by peers interested in shared space. Meanwhile, others even suggested that the space could be used to ease the UK’s growing demand for residential property.

So finally, what does the future hold for the real store?

There was no disagreement among the RTT members that there will always be a place for the retail store in the future, regardless of the factors driving change in the industry. The form and function however, need to evolve and change to the will of the customer and other external forces.

Looking to online retail specifically, Maureen Hinton said: “there has been massive growth in online retailing over the past two decades, but we still spend far more in physical stores than online, and this will continue”. Added to that, multiple members referred to arguments and research which suggest that shoppers want to visit physical stores.

Suggesting what we can expect to see more of in the coming years, Martin Newman, CEO of Practicology, suggested that: “The role of the store will certainly change. It will become much more about experience and true retail theatre. The store environment will seek to entertain, educate and engage”. He added that retailers must leverage digital technology to remove friction in the customer journey. Indeed, the members believed that the customer-centric focus, paired with added convenience, will continue.

As Martin Hayward, Founder of Hayward Strategy and Futures stated: “stores will remain a very important part of life for the foreseeable future. They will change and evolve, and poor ones will close as was ever the case, but there are fundamental social, emotional and logistical reasons why the store is an important part of life”.

Part II: In detail – individual views of the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Performance Think Tank members

James Knightley, Chief International Economist, ING

Store closures and bankruptcies attract headlines and it is difficult to argue against the view that retailing faces many challenges. But there is a future for the store – internet retailers obtaining a high street presence clearly attests to this.

Nonetheless, the role of the store will change. Property valuations, technological advances and faster, more efficient methods of delivery to consumers’ homes mean that less stock needs to be held. This suggests that the size of the store can become smaller (and cheaper) with more of a show room concept. In turn, this implies larger retail sites may be divided up and used for other purposes, including also residential needs.

This brings us to a key issue that suggests the future of the “new” store is brighter in the UK than it perhaps is elsewhere – demographic factors. The UK has seen a rapid increase in its population size over the past twenty years, fuelled by high immigration and strong birth rates (there are 1.8 live births per woman in the UK versus 1.5 in Germany and an EU average of 1.6). This has obviously boosted food sales due to there being more mouths to feed and supported growth in other sub-sectors of retailing.

There has been some evidence of a slowdown in the net migration from the EU to the UK since the Brexit vote, but it is important to remember that the number of EU migrants to the UK has consistently been less than the number of non-EU migrants arriving and living in the UK each year.

Indeed, countries (including India, New Zealand and Canada) have suggested they would want the same sort of freedoms for their citizens to live and work in the UK as the EU gets under the final Brexit deal, in return for the UK winning future trade deal with those countries. As such, demographers are unlikely to shift their predictions that the UK will become the most populous country in Western Europe within the next 30 years.

There have been various recent surveys (such as one conducted by the CBRE) suggesting people like to “physically” shop and when you add in the prospect of the UK‘s population hitting 70 million in 2027 (according to the Office for National Statistics) and there will be demand. As such the “new” store has a bright future.

Dr Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence – Ipsos Retail Performance

Unashamedly, I take my lead in setting out my vision of the future role of the store from Ron Johnson, former Senior Vice President of Apple Retail. To paraphrase him, he said that the store has got to be much more than a place to acquire merchandise, it’s got to help people enrich their lives by creating new types of value for them. The “value creator” grabbing all the attention at the moment sits with designing an environment that cultivates and consummates in-store ‘personalised’ experiences which build an emotional relationship with the retailer far beyond the normal transactional one. In effect this means turning the role of the store from being a sales hub into a tool of customer retention featuring various front-of-house technologies as enablers (VR, AR, smart mirrors, digital screens, wearables etc.). Google has taken this concept to the extreme in its SoHo New York store, where you can’t actually buy any products. That’s one step too far to my mind – one of the great strengths of a store is being able to offer instant gratification from a product purchase.

Good stores have always been places where customers can receive expert advice about the products they sell. Nowadays though, most product details are available on the web and shoppers often find, having done their research online, that they know more about the products than sales assistants. Ipsos’s latest Global Trends Survey found that 70% of people globally look up online reviews about a product from fellow shoppers before deciding whether to buy it. We generally trust other shoppers’ feedback more than the words of shop assistants or manufacturers. The future role of the store in this regard has to go beyond being a centre of expertise. Recruiting passionate staff, who have intimate product knowledge and take an active interest in their customers can drive engagement, coach and mentor them and bring back that loving feeling between stores and their shoppers. Rewarding engagement between store assistants and customers is a second means of value creation in the future role of the store. The future success of the store is not just about the “what”, it is also about the “who”. After all, retailing should always be a social and sociable activity.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail – KPMG

Over the last decade online shopping has grown considerably and now represents the fastest growing channel across the globe. In the UK approximately 20% of all transactions are now conducted online, and when taking the end-end customer journey into account, the online channel influences 90% + of purchases across many different categories. These are staggering numbers and these facts have definitely resulted in increasing pressure for the physical retail model. In this context though we should not forget that 80% of all sales are still transacted in store and even if we look 10 years ahead, I believe two thirds of sales will still be undertaken in stores. To be clear, even if the store remains to play a pivotal part in the retail world, its role is changing and organisations that do not move to adapt to these changes and do not upgrade or modernise their real-estate portfolio’s will face significant challenges. We will also likely see a reduction of physical store numbers, as I believe we have up to 25% to much physical retail space in some categories.

The store will need to function as the bridge between the physical and the digital world. It will need to take on new tasks such as becoming regional or local distribution hubs, and as the consumer increasingly seeks exciting in-store experiences become a show-room, a do-room and most importantly integrate seamlessly into the channel agnostic – customer centric modus operandi of a retail business.

There is no better proof that highlights that the store is here to stay than more and more online players are moving into the physical space – Alibaba, Amazon and Warby Parker are just some examples to name. These organisations are using the customer insights derived from their online data to plan and execute their stores in a better way. There are significant opportunities in doing this reaching across multiple examples such as store location analysis, curating the range, delivering a better in-store experience such as simplified navigation or payment process and the list continues. Take the Amazon book-store concept that uses its customer data to provide recommendations from local readers and does not display any in-store prices. These can be viewed through the customer’s smartphone which enables dynamic pricing.

Organisations that understand how to integrate their online and offline experiences into a seamlessly connected ecosystem will be the winners. Those that do not transform to do this will struggle to survive.

Martin Hayward, Founder – Hayward Strategy and Futures

There is a tendency for most of us to over-estimate the impact of trends in the short term, and to underestimate them in the longer term. At times of change, far from being clear strategic thinkers, most of us end up being swept up in both the euphoria and the fear of the new.

We are at one of those points now in the retail world as we debate the future role of the store. As technological innovation re-shapes consumer buying behaviour through on-line shopping and an ever increasing array of new ways to interact with brands and companies, there is genuine fear amongst the retail community that this is the beginning of the end for the store. Many are simply blindly extrapolating current trends to that point.

As exciting and wondrous as many of the new capabilities are, it’s time to pause and take a reality check.

There was an interesting phase in the late 1980s when corner shops were closing at a rapid rate and the grocery world was convinced that superstores on new edge of town developments were the future. At the time, the best action would have been to snap up a portfolio of corner shop locations, which are now being fought over, as consumers have reverted to shopping more often for fewer items.

When video arrived, it was sure to be the end of the cinema. Ready meals were going to kill eating out and video-conferencing was going to destroy business travel.

The reality is that stores will remain a very important part of life for the foreseeable future. They will change and evolve, and poor ones will close as was ever the case, but there are fundamental social, emotional and logistical reasons why the store is an important part of life.

It is such early days in the evolution of online shopping it is very dangerous to extrapolate from the current trends. It’s all new and quite exciting to talk of drones, robots, AI, self-ordering fridges, and virtual changing rooms but there are many reasons why the consumer will still visit the store.

A selection of the issues currently being hidden by the ‘white heat’ of technology includes:

• The real cost of home delivery is yet to be truly factored in to costs and as it becomes clearer we will see increases in charges and continuing migration to click and collect models.

• The large new competitors in online retail continue to avoid onerous taxation, dividend and employee protection costs, as they exploit government’s tardiness in reacting to these new global suppliers. This will change and they will gradually find their models having to play by the same rules.

• Whilst it is already feasible to sit in an armchair and order endless pizzas and ill-fitting clothing from Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home, most people don’t want to never go out.
• People like to see, touch, smell, taste and interact with things they’re about to buy.
• You can’t see if your bum looks big in something online.
• Most Amazon Prime members’ neighbours are fed up with having to take in their deliveries.
• The thrill of eating lukewarm food delivered by a sweaty cyclist will quickly diminish.
• Pop-ups are popping up everywhere to create theatre.
• The young and the old particularly enjoy the buzz of the marketplace to meet and talk with people.
• Virtual books are being replaced by real ones. Bookstores are reopening.
• Amazon, Apple, Boo and Misguided are opening real stores.

There are many more signals being suppressed by the current fascination with tech innovation, but they shouldn’t be ignored.

The store of the future will undoubtedly have more tech embedded in its service. It will have to be part of a seamless system with on-line and mobile offers. But if it’s a nice environment with pleasant, knowledgeable staff, and is an enjoyable experience they will still come.

Maureen Hinton, GlobalData

First of all there will still be stores in the future. There has been massive growth in online retailing over the past two decades, but we still spend far more in physical stores than online and this will continue. Currently 22% of non-food sales are online and only 8% of food and grocery sales (source GlobalData). And stores contribute to online sales through click and collect services and the ability to browse products in stores before buying online.

So stores will retain their importance as shopping destinations, but the purpose of the store will largely split into two, experiential and convenience, with different product sectors having different approaches. For instance retailers selling apparel and/or electricals need to take account of their much higher penetration rates online (34% and 52% respectively in 2022) and adapt their stores accordingly.

Apparel stores need to be brand builders, establishing the essence of the brand in a large flagship. This is already happening with the like of Zara opening flagships in new markets and using online to reach a far wider audience. Even smaller cult brands can attain global recognition with a handful of small, but uniquely branded, stores and online sales. In the US, Reformation clothing’s tech stores use a mix of technology and personal service to great effect; minimal stock on display, lots of interactive screens, with your selection delivered to your web-enabled dressing room, and a physical assistant to provide personal service. (It is probably not long before the personal assistant becomes artificial intelligence, not human).

Meanwhile in the electricals sector the role of the store is about service and support now rather than selling product. Apple’s declaration its stores are becoming ‘Town Squares’ and ‘forums for collaboration’ is fanciful, they are still just stores, but the range of services they offer goes beyond product into experiences. They now offer an educational experience, coding for kids, how to use technology, and make pleasant meeting places for both technophiles and technophobes.

But on the other hand we also need convenience – easy access to products and fast processing. Stores already exist in China with no human presence on site. BingoBox is a small convenience box style store that you access, and pay for goods, via your mobile phone. Amazon Go is also about convenience – not having to check out, just pick up goods and go, as your phone does the checking in and paying automatically.

Moreover we need physical pick up and return points for online shopping – again something Amazon recognised and one of the benefits of its Wholefoods acquisition, (and Sainsbury and Argos’ tie up), nationwide physical delivery and collection points. And there is no reason why Tesco or other hypermarket owners should not fill large stores’ dead air space with much-needed apartments which will not only be convenient (plentiful parking and easy access to amenities) but also create new style Town Squares.

Martin Newman, CEO – Practicology

While many have predicted the demise or slow decline of the store, I’d argue it’s taken on more importance. Customers in increasing numbers choose click-and-collect; and they continue to research online, but purchase offline, too. Digital also provides the potential for retailers to operate smaller stores, reduce operating costs and still deliver a good customer experience.

Sephora has opened a smaller footprint format combining an edited in-store range with virtual shopping baskets; allowing ordering from a broader online catalogue for collection or delivery. In the UK, House of Fraser has done something similar, trialling small footprint order points.

Whatever a retailer’s plans for stores and leveraging digital are, my advice is to always start with the customer and work back to determine what experience is relevant in the context of your brand and product category.
The role of the store will certainly change. It will become much more about experience and true retail theatre. The store environment will seek to entertain, educate and engage. I can’t resist a good three-letter acronym, so you might call it the ‘3Es of instore’.

Retailers must leverage digital technology to remove friction in the customer journey. Product and brand immersion are key components for customer engagement, and this requires new store footprints.

Adding value with experience
It’s clear that there is demand from consumers for experiences and services that can’t be delivered purely online. According to UK consumer research from BookingBug:

  • 71% of consumers sometimes or often webroom (look at products online before purchasing in store);
  • 45% sometimes or often click and collect products

I’ve just attended Shoptalk Europe, where the world’s biggest online brands – Amazon and Alibaba – both gave keynote speeches that mentioned the importance of stores and physical retail to provide convenience and services that the web alone can’t offer.

Amazon’s Prime Now service that offers same-day delivery has been designed so that it’s possible to pick items for delivery from local stores; and Alibaba has invested in a Chinese consumer electronics retailer so that it can better understand and cater for the offline aspect of customer behaviour.

Stores are here to stay. We just need to re-think the experience that they deliver.

Mike Watkins, Head of Retailer and Business Insight – Nielsen UK 

Technology is changing the path to purchase in retail and consumers are shopping and spending differently. Stores in the non-food channel are already closing because of shifts in how people spend their money and the rise of e-commerce. These trends have the potential to be just as revolutionary in food retailing.

The needs of consumers are now more diverse and most shoppers are channel agnostic and the channel shift is particularly disruptive for Supermarkets as the purchase frequency is over 4 times a week, with daily touchpoints in food to go and food service.

In the future, shoppers will expect to shop anytime, anywhere for anything food related and the instant gratification of the mobile experience will be a differentiation in the same way that store location (and in particular large stores) had been in the last decade.

Nielsen expects the only online share of food retail – a £150b+ per annum market – to increase from 6.5% to 10% within 3 years. This means that the supermarket of the future will be very different from today. It will be “retail wrapped in a food experience “where shopper marketing (assortment, price, promotions) blends with technology and individual shops take on a distinct theme or mission.

A store where shoppers can browse, buy, consume and have products delivered and where the ranges have been carefully curated. With predictive analytics and digital reward schemes, we can expect retailers to identify what individual shoppers will want to buy and to respond in real-time. The store will be fresh food led with traditional grocery and non-food having less relevance and taking less space, and food retailers will offer an immersive experience using learnings from the best in class in other channels and also from technology titans.

The starting point is to make food stores more efficient, the purchase more engaging and the experience memorable. The future is to innovate the in store experience and to celebrate the tastes, choice and convenience of food and drink with an evolved food service proposition. Successful, retailers will also prioritise in store technology from menu preparation to cashless checkouts.

Without these new strategies many thousands of existing stores will quickly become less relevant to the next generation of consumer.

Jonathan De Mello, Head of Retail Consultancy – Harper Dennis Hobbs

The role of the store has fundamentally evolved – catalysed principally by online retailing. Stores no longer are just about making money; they have become physical manifestations of a brand. This is due to the ever-growing importance of online retail as a distribution channel. In an environment where – at least for the majority of traditional brick and mortar retailers – store like for like sales growth is flat or negative (whilst online channels are seeing double digit growth), investment in stores in high footfall locations is key – in order to maximise the ‘halo’ effect created by the physical store on online sales. This, coupled with the fact that well located stores in high traffic centres tend to be the best performing for the vast majority of retailers anyway, has led to a number of retailers seeking to ‘optimise’ their property portfolios; closing more peripheral/poor performing stores on lease expiry.

Traditional brick and mortar retailers aren’t the only ones seeking to locate in the best and most high profile centres however. Brands that traditionally only sold their products via wholesale and concessions in department stores are also increasingly keen to benefit from both the money that can be made from physical stores, but more importantly the brand building benefits such stores can bring. A good example of this is the beauty sector – a sector that is booming at the moment, with not only more and more beauty brands and concepts entering the market, but also lifestyle brands such as Topshop, Ted Baker and others developing their own beauty lines. Creating an identity for the brand is also important – given the fact that the level of promotional activity by some department store chains such as Debenhams and House of Fraser can be detrimental to brand equity. A physical store in the right location can help mitigate the impact of this. To highlight the level of growth of brands taking stores, the table below (originally put together by HDH for a beauty retailer client) highlights the pace of growth of physical stores by beauty brands – with a huge 87% growth in the number of branded stores in the past 5 years.


Beauty brands store growth

Table: Harper Dennis Hobbs


Finally, online pure-play retailers have started to wake up to the idea that – in an increasingly crowded and competitive internet – having high profile physical stores can help to both build the brand and also provide a sense of reassurance to consumers that the brand is there to stay. In addition, a physical store for online retailers can provide shoppers with click and collect services, which – in an environment where the cost of online returns is prohibitively high – could actually help to improve margins, longer term.

The role of the store has changed and will continue to change. In the main high streets in key global cities such as New York, London and Paris, it is likely that 25% of retailers in these streets will be brands that formerly did not have a physical store concept. Microsoft taking a very high profile store on Oxford Circus is a good example of this – and it is hard even for a major global brand such as Benetton (the previous occupiers of the Oxford Circus unit) to compete with the sheer spending power such brands have at their disposal, if they want to trade in a specific location.

James Sawley, Head of Retail & Leisure, HSBC

Call me old school, but I love shopping. I take my family to Westfield all the time. Whilst I enjoy simply getting out the house, most of all I delight in the sense of discovery, interacting with actual real life people, and being inspired by the latest designs, products and trends. On top of all that there’s the amazing food – something for everyone.

From a banker’s perspective, the role of the store is a very important one. I strongly believe the multichannel retail model will succeed as the primary driver of retail sales in the future and when reviewing business plans and financing proposals, having a coherent multichannel strategy is imperative. Take Apparel & Footwear, the largest online category, but still 90% of clothing consumers shop online AND in-store. Having multiple channels significantly increases your addressable market, and enables retailers to build their brand in a physical (more engaging) environment, rather than just digitally. This explains why online retailers such as Missguided and Farfetch are moving into stores.

The UK is the most advanced western nation when it comes to ecommerce with roughly one in every five pounds spent online (non-food). Online growth has been gradually declining in recent years and since the start of 2017 we are consistently seeing only single digit YOY change. Long-term generational shifts aside, slowing growth suggests maturity will be reached at some point in the next few years. In fact, for mature product categories such as books, electronics and furniture, one could argue maturity has been reached or is very close. The split of books sold online and in-store hasn’t changed materially in the last few years, and in fact the physical book is now beginning to make a comeback, winning market share from the e-book. The physical book retailing market (arguably the first to be disrupted) has come through a tough period of demand/supply correction, and now multichannel retailers such as Waterstones and Foyles are performing well, offering book consumer so much more than just ‘a place to buy a book’. As other categories progress towards maturity, uneconomical shops will be replaced with restaurants and entertainment. Landlords will need to continue to work closely with operators to make the shopping environment compelling, and shops economically viable.

As a banker I’m fascinated in the economics of the store. Historically, the decision to invest in opening new stores has been driven by modelling capex, cost, footfall, LFL and sales per square foot assumptions, and the resultant ROIC. If ROIC is suitably greater than cost of capital, green light to open the store. The customer, who is channel agnostic, is not part of this equation. E-receipts and other technologies are now allowing retailers to link web sales to stores, this more holistic view of the customer is going to be a key enabler for retailers who will survive the test of time, i.e. those whose business models are designed around the customer and offer a seamless journey between the physical and the digital worlds.




Members of the RTT are:

  • Nick Bubb – Retail Consultant
  • Dr. Tim Denison – Ipsos Retail Performance
  • Jonathan De Mello – Harper Dennis Hobbs
  • Martin Hayward – Hayward Strategy and Futures
  • Maureen Hinton – GlobalData
  • James Knightley – ING
  • Paul Martin – KPMG
  • Martin Newman – Practicology
  • James Sawley – HSBC
  • Mike Watkins – Nielsen UK

The intellectual property within the RTT is jointly owned by KPMG ( and Ipsos Retail Performance.

First mentions of the Retail Think Tank should be as follows: the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank. The abbreviations Retail Think Tank and RTT are acceptable thereafter.

The RTT was founded by KPMG and Ipsos Retail Performance (formerly Synovate) in February 2006. It now meets quarterly to provide authoritative ‘thought leadership’ on matters affecting the retail industry. All outputs are consensual and arrived at by simple majority vote and moderated discussion. Quotes are individually credited.  The Retail Think Tank has been created because it is widely accepted that there are so many mixed messages from different data sources that it is difficult to establish with any certainty the true health and status of the sector.  The aim of the RTT is to provide the authoritative, credible and most trusted window on what is really happening in retail and to develop thought leadership on the key areas influencing the future of retailing in the UK. Its executive members have been rigorously selected from non-aligned disciplines to highlight issues, propose solutions, learn from the past, signpost the road ahead and put retail into its rightful context within the British social/economic matrix.

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