A better view of customer data, RFID to improve stock visibility and more sustainable delivery – the leaders of 57 retailers reveal their 2023 investment strategy in Retail Week’s latest report, Retail 2023

Despite the gloomy economic climate, retailers remain committed to investment strategies in order to achieve growth next year. 

This was the overwhelming consensus in Retail 2023, Retail Week’s annual report, which is now in its 11th year and was produced in association with Zebra Technologies for the second year running.

Retail 2023 provides a critical strategic outlook on the year ahead and insight into the conversations happening across UK boardrooms.

We spoke to 57 leaders across 54 retailers including Ikea, Waitrose, River Island and McDonald’s (see the full list below). 

The data dilemma

It was clear that data – specifically achieving a single view of both consumer and stock in real time – is holding retailers back. 

The percentage of retailers answering ‘yes’ to whether or not they have a single view of their stock and customer – and whether exists in real-time – fluctuates year on year.

This highlights the challenges faced by the industry in really personalising its offer to customers and in streamlining supply chain and logistics operations to save on costs and improve CX for shoppers.

Some 49% of this year’s respondents say they have a single view of stock in real-time, while 29% say they do without the real-time element. That compares favourably with 40% and 29% respectively one year ago.

The need to tackle this data dilemma was being addressed by many of the businesses we spoke to, including Trouva.

“It’s critical to go back to the fundamentals of how buying decisions are being made and how we use data to support these decisions”

Alex Loizou, Trouva

“I think all retailers are finding it very hard to build roadmaps for 2023, given the turbulent and unpredictable environment we find ourselves in,” says Alex Loizou, co-founder and chief executive of the online indie marketplace.

“From our perspective, it’s therefore critical to go back to the fundamentals of how buying decisions are being made and how we use data to support these decisions while protecting ourselves from potential market fluctuations.”

Gift Universe chief executive Paul Kraftman says recent investment in RFID at a fulfilment centre has helped get a “really good management information infrastructure in place” at his business.

“You’ve got to have a clear and accurate view,” he adds. “We replenish little and often. So if those numbers are wrong, it absolutely screws up the performance. So it’s a huge part of our infrastructure that we’ve invested in.”

While inventory levels appear to be highly visible for today’s retailers, customer records are a different story.

Some 27% of retail leaders interviewed say they have a single view of their customer in real-time, 31% say they do but not in real-time and 31% acknowledge they do not have a single view of their customer at all. 

Sizing up sustainable investment opportunities

Sustainability is another key focus for retail leaders. Indeed, when asked what they expect to see more of in regards to consumer demand around deliveries in 2023, most retail chief executives said more sustainable delivery options (31%), ahead of options such as same-day delivery (29%).

Kumaran Adithyan, UK trading director of eBay, explains that the retailer is investing across a number of different areas, with sustainability being a core component.

“eBay has always been a place you can come for pre-loved fashion or refurbished electronics – clearly, that is becoming more important for consumers and we want to drive that with things like our Love Island partnership,” he says.

“History tells me customers want products as fast as possible, as long as it’s free”

Andy Lightfoot, Space NK

However, it will be difficult to achieve both faster and greener delivery without a huge switch to non-fossil-fuelled vehicles in carrier fleets.

Space NK chief executive Andy Lightfoot explains the dilemma facing retailers: “History tells me customers want products as fast as possible, as long as it’s free.”

However, he does believe more needs to be done to make delivery more sustainable.

“I feel like it’s table stakes. Everybody needs to be moving towards trying to find ways to use electric vans and more people on bikes and those types of couriers.

“I think a lot of that sits with the couriers themselves; Evri, DHL, et al are all moving that way. They’ve all got pledges to become carbon-neutral by circa 2030.”

A customer should not have to make a compromise for delivery to be a bit more environmentally friendly, Lightfoot continues.

Want to find out more about the 2023 strategies of the 57 leaders? This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

 Access your free copy of Retail 2023, produced in association with Zebra Technologies, to find out: 

  • Retail 2023 cover, which reads: 'Retail 2023 – The UK's leading CEOs reveal their strategies for the year ahead'

    The boardroom forecast from Waterstones, Space NK, U.S. Polo Assn., Ganni, Majestic Wine  and more 
  • IT infrastructure, data, loyalty and supply chain – the truth about investment plans
  • The critical role a diverse marketing strategy is playing, from traditional channels such as TV through to TikTok
  • How retailers are infusing tech with stores to create memorable experiences

Who did we speak to?

Meet the 57 leaders that took part in this research:

  • Paul Kraftman, chief executive, Gift Universe, and owner, Menkind
  • Alessandro Savelli, co-founder and managing director, Pasta Evangelists
  • James Daunt, managing director, Waterstones
  • Doug Putman, owner, Putman Investments and HMV
  • Chief executive, footwear retailer
  • Sean Ashby, managing director, AussieBum
  • Andrew Hood, co-founder and chief executive, Amara
  • Andy Lightfoot, chief executive for UK and US, Space NK
  • Orlagh McCloskey, co-founder, Rixo
  • Henrietta Rix, co-founder, Rixo
  • George Graham, chief executive, Wolf & Badger
  • Aron Gelbard, chief executive, Bloom & Wild
  • Mark Suddards, global retail director and general manager for northern Europe, Ganni
  • Graeme Jenkins, chief executive, Dobbies
  • Peter Jelkeby, country manager for UK and Ireland, Ikea
  • Luca Donnini, chief executive, Temperley London
  • Tracey Clements, chief executive of convenience for Europe, BP
  • Andy McGeoch, chief executive, M&Co
  • John Colley, executive chair and chief executive, Majestic Wine
  • Paul Marshall, managing director for Europe, Specsavers
  • Peter Bainbridge, general manager for optics, Specsavers
  • Michael Thomson, chief executive and founder, Pour Moi
  • Marketing and corporate responsibility director, fashion and home retailer
  • Maria Hollins, managing director, Ann Summers
  • Paul Marchant, chief executive, Primark
  • Huw Crwys-Williams, chief executive, WiggleCRC
  • Ali Hall, co-chief executive, Sosandar
  • Julie Lavington, co-chief executive, Sosandar
  • Managing director, grocery chain
  • J. Michael Prince, president and chief executive,U.S. Polo Assn.
  • Mark Saunders, chief executive, Mamas & Papas
  • Debbie Bond, chief commercial officer, Lovehoney
  • Paul Hayes, chief executive, Seasalt
  • Rachel Sheridan, chief commercial officer, Thread
  • Alex Loizou, co-founder and chief executive, Trouva
  • Daniel O’Neill, chief executive and founder, ProCook
  • Chief executive, sports equipment retailer
  • Rasmus Brix, general manager for UK, Pandora
  • Will Kernan, chief executive, River Island
  • Markus Naewie, head of EMEA, Victorinox
  • Michael Fletcher, former chief executive, Nisa
  • Vanessa Masliah, vice-president of marketing and branding, Vestiaire Collective
  • Chris Gaffney, chief executive, Johnstons of Elgin
  • Managing director, jewellery retailer
  • Gavin Peck, chief executive, The Works
  • Kara Trent, managing director for EMEA, Under Armour
  • Bridget Lea, managing director of commercial, BT
  • Elizabeth Spaulding, chief executive, Stitch Fix
  • Amy Heather, director of strategic accounts, Just Eat
  • Kumaran Adithyan, UK trading director, eBay
  • James Bailey, executive director, Waitrose
  • Natalie Knoll, co-founder and creative director, Bird & Knoll
  • Chief executive, fashion retailer
  • Chirag Patel, chief executive, Pentland Brands
  • Penny Grivea, managing director for UK and Ireland, Rituals Cosmetics
  • Gareth Pearson, senior vice-president and chief operations officer for UK and Ireland, McDonald’s
  • David Robinson, outgoing chief operating officer, Pets at Home