The glitz and glamour, Champagne and fast cars of Formula One have captivated motor racing fans across the world for decades.

It’s an industry that, on the face of it, seems miles away from the comparatively humdrum world of bricks-and-mortar retailing.

But as data, technology and collaboration become increasingly central themes in retail boardrooms, there are plenty of pointers to be taken from the pit lane.

Retail Week runs the rule over five lessons retailers can learn from Formula One.

Harness data to inform decisions

Much is spoken about the use of data in retail to drive personalisation and aid the distribution of stock, but no industry relies on data quite like Formula One.

The use of live analytics during a race has obvious benefits, allowing teams to track tyre temperatures, pressure and degradation, as well as engine performance.

“Most retailers monitor analytics to measure the productivity of its warehouses, while the likes of Morrisons have introduced automated ordering systems to reduce gaps on shelves and improve availability”

During a race, each team will generate around 100GB of data. Over a 20-race season, that’s some 2TB of detailed analysis.

But such mass data collection extends beyond the pit lane.

Even at the vehicle production stage, Formula One teams leverage cloud-based services to store vital data that helps them flag inefficiencies in the manufacturing process and gather insights into everything from staffing levels to material orders.

A similar use of data is becoming more and more prevalent in retail. Most retailers monitor analytics to measure the productivity of its warehouses, while the likes of Morrisons have introduced automated ordering systems to reduce gaps on shelves and improve availability.

Adapt strategies quickly – or get left behind

In Formula One, there is a constant need for change. Indeed, racing teams are among the most agile business units in the UK, constantly looking for ways to adapt, improve and innovate.

Every season, Formula One’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), can change the sport’s rules and regulations as it sees fit, often prompting a radical change to the vehicles taking part.

“Depending on changes in the weather, unexpected pit-stop strategies employed by rival drivers or unforeseen vehicle problems, teams have to react quickly to fast-changing race scenarios to keep their drivers in the hunt”

For many teams, the majority, if not all, of the 20,000 parts required to make their cars will have been completely new at the start of the 2017 campaign, emphasising the constant need for agility and reinvention.

The story is a similar one during races themselves. Depending on changes in the weather, unexpected pit-stop strategies employed by rival drivers or unforeseen vehicle problems, teams have to react quickly to fast-changing race scenarios to keep their drivers in the hunt.

In a comparable way, retailers that fail to change quickly enough are those that get left behind – just look at BHS and Woolworths.

But others such as Sainsbury’s – which is setting itself up for the future by acquiring Argos – and Shop Direct, which has transformed itself from a catalogue operator into an etail innovator, have embraced change to the benefit of the businesses.

Encourage collaboration

Formula One teams employ more than 1,000 people to design, build and operate the modern car.

But what the sport demonstrates perhaps greater than any other industry is the need to work cross-functionally, sharing ideas and information with other parts of the team.

Getting a driver to the World Championship does not come simply from having the best engine, the best chassis, using the best technology, or even from sticking the best driver behind the wheel.

“Success in Formula One comes from all divisions within the wider team – from product design and research and development, to sales and finance – working together to improve performance and achieve clear goals”

Success in Formula One comes from all divisions within the wider team – from product design and research and development, to sales and finance – working together to improve performance and achieve clear goals.

John Lewis Partnership stablemates John Lewis and Waitrose already collaborate well through their click-and-collect propositions and operating Waitrose stores inside some John Lewis locations.

But their respective managing directors Paula Nickolds and Rob Collins have both signalled a desire to collaborate further in order to benefit both retailers.

Create a culture of internal competition

Fostering a feeling of friendly rivalry within a business can often bring out the best in your employees – and it is a culture Formula One has nurtured for decades.

Former Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg traded first and second places in the final Championship standings in 2015 and 2016, no doubt spurred on to their respective successes by their counterpart’s ability and desire.

“Majestic Wine, for instance, promotes friendly rivalry between the employees in its internal rising stars programme, in the hope that such healthy competition will encourage staff to learn more and develop their skills quicker”

Other in-team rivalries, such as those between Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Marc Webber, and former McLaren duo Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, have underpinned both individual driver and constructors’ Championship victories.

Although some, like the Prost-Senna rivalry, ultimately turned sour, there is no doubting that those drivers drove each other on to do better.

Retailers could encourage a similar culture to bring the best out of their workers at all levels of the business.

Majestic Wine, for instance, promotes friendly rivalry between the employees in its internal rising stars programme, in the hope that such healthy competition will encourage staff to learn more and develop their skills quicker.

Establish open lines of communication

At every stage of the process in Formula One, communication is vital.

From the development of new parts and the manufacture of the vehicle, to speed testing and the race weekend itself, successful Formula One teams place huge importance on top-to-bottom communication.

But engaging with external partners is equally key.

“Like retailers, Formula One teams have deals in place with IT specialists, telecoms providers, fuel companies and PR firms to name but a few, who have to remain informed at every stage of the season if they are to be successful”

Like retailers, Formula One teams have deals in place with IT specialists, telecoms providers, fuel companies and PR firms to name but a few, who have to remain informed at every stage of the season if they are to be successful.

Team leaders in the pits on race days are in touch with everyone from the drivers and mechanics to employees back at HQ, no matter where they are in the world.

At Britain’s larger retailers, establishing such open communication with all employees can prove difficult enough, before factoring in external partners and shareholders.

French Connection’s founder and boss Stephen Marks has found that out the hard way recently amid a – very public – backlash from investors, but companies such as the Co-op, which communicates clearly and regularly with members and employees, often reap the rewards.