- Kristopher Fraser |
REPL, a retail tech firm that helps companies in all areas from supply chain to customer experience, calls two very different retail markets homes: the US and the UK. REPL has been around for 12 years, and works with every form of retail from fast-fashion brands to department stores and grocery stores.
Mike Callender, the organization's chairman, has seen key advancements over the past several years around things like points of sale and contactless payments, but he believes that the biggest thing retailers need to focus on right now and at the start of this decade is supply chains. "Retailers need to get on top of their supply chains, whether that be their own supply chains or starting to look at shared supply chains, because there's a lot to do in that market," Callender said to FashionUnited. "That will also help things become more sustainable as well, it's not just about the sustainability of the clothes they are making, and they need to make sure they are investing in that in the right way. People are going to want it and they are going to want it tomorrow, they really want it today, but we have to get there."
Callender says that the number one issue in retailers shifting to a more sustainable supply chain is cost. All of the fashion companies are trying to find the cheapest, most cost effective way to do anything. Luxury brands are expected to move toward a more sustainable supply chains faster because they have a smaller inventory. Fast-fashion retailers will have a much more difficult time moving toward sustainable supply chains because they are selling high volumes at a cheap price.
Aside from supply chain, one of the most impending words of doom on the global markets lips is Brexit, however it's not the big, bad evil some people think it will be. "Brexit is going to affect the way the UK brings things from Europe, but Brexit is not what's really going to affect retail," Callendar said to FashionUnited. "What's really going to affect retail, even on a global scale, are the trade negotiations, which will define how trade relations will be with Europe, Asia, America, etc. The UK is going to go from having trade agreements and relationships that were defined by the EU to no relationship, and they will need to get one in place."
The thing that Brexit was affecting back when the UK had a hung parliament the uncertainty bred people refusing to spend money. Now that Brexit is expected to go through at the end of January, the UK economy has picked up with retailers now planning for a post-Brexit UK. The UK is expected to negotiate trade deals by the end of this year, and then we will see how that affects retail.
In regards to globalization, Callender believes that it is inevitable. "People are travelling more, populations are moving around, and there's immigration all time through all countries, the world is becoming more homogeneous," Callender said to FashionUnited. "Even if the US puts heavy tariffs on other countries and tries to do more domestically, that will only last another five to ten years at most. There will always be arguments about trade tariffs, but globalization is an unstoppable juggernaut that will continue. The freedom of movement that people have will help globalization continue, so unless you stop the freedom of movement, you can't stop globalization."
The UK's retail sector is about to change, but the global retail sector will continue moving, and fast. Come December, we will be looking at the UK's whole new approach to global retail.
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