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  • Writer's pictureSarah-Jayne Gratton

Retail in a Post-Coronavirus Landscape

A great interview is one that leaves you feeling psychologically lifted. It’s insightful, thought provoking and resonates with you long after its conclusion.

Dean and I experienced just this recently when we interviewed Craig Summers, the UK Manager Director of Manhattan Associates, as part of our ‘In Conversation With…’ series.

In a packed thirty minutes we discussed everything from retail technology within stores, warehouses and distribution centres to the future of the high-street and even face-mask etiquette – but more of that later!

“It’s amazing how capable we are, as human beings, to adapt really quickly to unprecedented change,”

Craig reflected on how the industry has not only managed to survive during the challenging times of the past six months, but has further evolved to embrace the changing shopping habits of the public, whilst recognising the unsung heroes of the supply chain.

“It’s amazing how capable we are, as human beings, to adapt really quickly to unprecedented change,” said Craig. “Our colleagues in retail have done an amazing job of having to cope with something that no-one expected to experience – certainly not in my lifetime.”

We likened the past few months to being the stuff of “science fiction movies” and chuckled at the analogy.

Our Interview with Craig Summers, UK MD of Manhattan Associates (pictured left) was full of insightful industry observations and reflections (Photo courtesy of Camden Media)

Craig went on to explain how the Coronavirus had, in some respects, been a ‘wake-up call’ for the retail industry. “Physical stores have had to operate in new and unexpected ways,” he explained and “the whole of the supply chain has been affected.”

We touched upon the social shift that has taken place and how, during the lockdown, it was more important than ever to connect local suppliers to customers in need of essential groceries.

“I think there is a realisation that we are only one tweet away from the next panic.”

“Where I live there are some independent retailers; butchers, grocers, deli’s … who formed an alliance, initially [to provide deliveries] for the vulnerable, but now they’ve created something that they want to keep going forward,” Craig said.

Initiatives like FPC's OnYourDoorstep linked local traders with customers in their area

It was a great and inspiring example of how many small businesses have adapted and evolved through partnership to provide a much-needed service during the lockdown and I too reminisced on how I had played a part in starting a similar platform with the UK’s Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) called On Your Doorstep, which connected local suppliers with customers. Like Craig’s example, the platform was embraced by smaller local retailers and continues to thrive today.

We then talked about the increasing need for smaller traders to adapt to new online shopping habits.

“If you’re a high-street presence, where twenty to thirty percent of your business is geared to ecommerce, I think the need to bolster that is absolutely critical,” Craig remarked, “along with Click and Collect, which I’m personally a fan of.

“If you’re a more traditional retailer and you haven’t been investing in your technology at the rate of your online competition then the risk is that you’re going to get left behind,” he went on to explain.

Embracing technology is essential in order for businesses to protect against future challenges (photo courtesy of Manhattan Associates)

We then shifted to the subject of the unsung heroes of the supply chain. It’s something that Craig had mentioned in a previous interview and had resonated with Dean and I as playing a pivotal part in keeping the nation’s wheels of industry and healthcare turning during the pandemic – and beyond.

“We recognise those in front of us, of course!” Craig began, “but there’s a massive amount going on at the back-end that we don’t see. Those drivers, warehouse and distribution centre teams and the pickers in our fields…

“There are just so many people behind the scenes; the unsung heroes, who work tirelessly to keep us going,” he added poignantly.

Back to societal issues and we discussed the incredible amount of stockpiling that went on as a result of the sudden and unexpected wave of fear, which had engulfed the nation.

“One of the things that we as a nation have had the luxury of is incredible selection… beyond our wildest dreams” Craig remarked. Then, during the lockdown “there was the realisation that we just had to focus on the basics; bread, milk… the core things that people need to carry on.”

Now choice and selection is back but “I think there is a realisation that we are only one tweet away from the next panic.”

We talked about the many unknowns going forward and for the need to invest in the future of the industry by protecting the workers and utilising advances in technology to bolster the economy in the event of a further lockdown.

I realised, rather sadly, that our time was up and had passed too quickly.

We ended the conversation by touching upon the nation’s newly discovered sense of face-mask etiquette, with each of us chuckling as we compared our own particular way of wearing this now essential accessory.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, our interview with Craig was full of insights, punctuated by his gentle humour and the occasional poignant truth.

Watch the full interview on The Influencers YouTube Channel.


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