High street retailers 'must adopt or close' says RSM survey

Online shopping has dramatically altered how people make their purchases

IF beleaguered bricks-and-mortar retailers want to survive let alone thrive, they must ensure their business model - and culture - is properly aligned with changing consumer preferences, a survey has found.

A survey of 2,000 people across Ireland and Britain conducted for accounting and advisory firm RSM has revealed interesting consumer patterns and intentions in the different jurisdictions, but also an underlying trend towards more considered purchasing.

With HMV, House of Fraser and Coast among a raft of well-known retailers to have experienced difficulties in the last few months, and consumer behaviour changing rapidly, RSM says retailers must interrogate all aspects of their business and customer service offering to ensure that their business model is resilient enough to face the risks posed by the volatile economic outlook for the year ahead.

Aine Farrelly, management consulting partner at RSM Ireland, said: “As many of us consider resolutions for the new year ahead, our advice to retailers is that there is no room for complacency.

"Consumer behaviour is changing rapidly. We already know that online shopping has dramatically and forever altered how people make their purchases and this is borne out by the result of this survey, but we are also now seeing that people are increasingly choosing to make purchases that they consider to be in line with how they identify, for example from an ethical or sustainable perspective.”

Richard Gardiner, RSM's office managing partner in Belfast, said: “This survey shows that, not only is the uncertainty among consumers due to the volatile economic environment causing them to be more conservative, they are also changing how and why they shop.

“The high street is increasingly being seen as a ‘showroom' where people expect experience-driven shopping. We are living in extraordinary times, and companies cannot operate as though it will be ‘business as usual'. Resilience can only be ensured by taking regular and careful reviews of how business strategy is aligned with the needs and demands of your customers.”

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