A double dip recession looks unlikely, but colleague and customer engagement will be critical if retailers are to maintain high street spend, delegates at the Retail Week Conference heard.

Alliance Boots group CEO Andy Hornby said delivering “genuinely legendary” customer service standards will be vital. “If we don’t get that right we won’t get that differentiation that will encourage people to keep spending on the high street.”

The high street will remain under pressure not only because of potential rising unemployment and an increased cost of living, but because of the growth in out of town space, he said. “Out of town will continue to outstrip high street sales,” he said. This sales growth is being fuelled by the growing power of supermarkets, said Hornby.

“It will be tough, but we can get there if five things are right,” added Hornby. This five-strong magic formula includes customer service, colleague engagement, reduced costs, internationalisation and customer communication. “The real winners over the next five years will be those who get colleague engagement to a top level so they can re-engage with customers,” he said.