Aldi leads the top 30 most productive multichannel retailers with a product offer that appeals to cash-strapped consumers and its focus on efficiency, a Retail Week report launched today reveals.  

The supermarket is followed by discounter rival Lidl, with Watches of Switzerland Group, Currys and Yours Clothing rounding out the top five in The UK’s Top 30 Most Productive Retailers report, produced in association with Zebra Technologies.  

Every sector is represented across the ranking but grocery comes out on top, taking seven of the top 15 places. Aldi and Lidl topping the list is reflective of the wider macroeconomic conditions, with consumers continuing to watch their pennies. As a result, Aldi and Lidl have managed to drive sales while focusing on keeping internal costs as low as possible.

Lisa Byfield-Green, research director at Retail Week, says: “Runaway inflation has seen retailers absorbing costs because they can’t afford to pass that on to their shoppers. Consumers are looking to retailers to help them in a cost-of-living crisis, and that means businesses have had to focus on efficiencies in the past 12 months – perhaps more than ever.” 

This consumer pressure comes at a time when retailers are expected to expand sales channels and fulfilment options, and profits are hard to sustain, resulting in a laser-sharp focus on productivity. But how can the workforce drive greater value, and perhaps even more importantly, how could technology augment human labour? 

These are just some of the vital questions The UK’s Top 30 Most Productive Retailers report answers.

Grocery’s efficiency drive 

Aldi and Lidl have always run with fewer staff than their more established UK rivals but as price wars have ramped up in the past decade to win customer share, the major players have been manoeuvred into restructuring drives to save money.   

The sector has seen big reductions in headcounts – from Tesco (15th) and Sainsbury’s (joint 10th) having both removed in-store food counters in recent years, to the tens of thousands of head office, support centre and fulfilment job losses announced throughout grocery in the past decade. 

‘Restructure plans put jobs at risk’ has been a common headline theme in Retail Week for the past four years. In the first quarter of 2023, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda all made major staffing announcements: Tesco conducted a shake-up of store management and lead roles affecting 1,750 jobs; more than 300 jobs at Asda were axed and 4,300 staff notified of pay cuts after a swathe of changes were made to night shifts, Post Office outlets and pharmacies to cut cost; and Sainsbury’s consulted on the closure of two Argos depots as part of its streamlining plans, with 1,400 jobs affected. 

Morrisons was forced to make numerous staff restructures over the past 18 months – including consolidating some packing plants and closing 132 McColl’s branches − after the cost of servicing its £7.5bn of gross debt soared as interest rates rose. 

The largest players are also looking to enhance productivity in physical spaces through the use of more customer self-service options, such as self-scan mobile apps and handheld scanning devices, and the redeployment of store staff to cover multiple roles. 

Top 30 Most Productive Retailers report

This is just a taster of the full report, which fully illuminates the methods driving retailer’s productivity strategies. 

Register to access your free copy today. You’ll discover not only who the top 30 are, but also:  

  • Why paying staff more could mean they deliver greater value 
  • What retailers’ new KPI’s are and how they’ll promote efficiency 
  • The role AI is playing in shaping strategy and what implementation looks like 
  • Exclusive case studies on Currys, Watches of Switzerland and Frasers Group