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News Report Page 5 of 9
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Brits more likely to have seen a retail worker than family over lockdown

RETAILERS and retail workers have been working hard over the last few months to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and ensure they're able to provide essential supplies to those that need them. So much so, that the vast majority of Brits (77%) believe that retail workers deserve more respect within society, with over half 58% pledging to be nicer to retail staff following Covid-19. What's more, 1 in 4 (24%) of us know someone who has been displaced from their career as a result of Covid-19 and has since found employment in retail.

As we begin to look beyond the crisis, it's important that retailers remember the real, human value retail workers have added throughout this period, with research revealing that we're more likely to have had face to face interactions with retail workers than friends, family and colleagues during the UK's lockdown. With this in mind, new research has revealed that retailers would lose out on almost 3 quarters of their footfall if they replaced staff with technology, as 72% of Brits say they would reconsider shopping in store if there were no retail staff available. This figure rises to 83% of those aged 55+.

Indeed, the findings from jobs site Retail Choice found that stores could see a fall in sales if they were to move towards a total digital service, with the average consumer not wanting to spend more than ₤158 in store without being able to speak to a retail worker. This highlights real concerns for major retail outlets who rely on big ticket spends. What's more this figure falls to just ₤28 for those aged 75+, meaning corner shops and grocery stores are at risk of disenfranchising entire demographics.

While the use of technology is increasing, it's far from perfect, causing frustration for consumers and retail workers as well as facilitating stealing. Some Brits are struggling to use the technology currently available, with 11% shoppers reporting that they have opted not to buy a product because the in store technology wasn't working. With this in mind, stores looking to incorporate future technology need to ensure they put resources and contingency plans in place so that if the technology fails, they can remain fully operational.

Similarly, 62% of consumers say they get frustrated when there isn't a human customer service assistant available to speak to. This highlights the need for staff to be passionate and to work alongside technology, which can be unpredictable at times. A brand's reputation is significantly impacted by the work of its employees, as half of consumers 51% report the reason they return to their favourite stores as because of their exceptional customer service.

Moreover, as e-commerce continues to become a key channel for consumer spending, customers' experience with online technology is becoming more significant. 20% shoppers have become frustrated due to an online customer service tool, such as a chat bot, not being able to answer their enquiry. In addition, 12% report long delays when using online customer service technology and 10% have been put off buying a product online due to a negative experience with the online customer service.

In store technology is also frustrating retail workers, as 64% report having wasted time due to technical difficulties with in store tech. Moreover, 35% retail workers report having seen people stealing from stores while using self service checkouts, raising major concerns for retailers as to lost revenue.

Clearly, shoppers still value the presence of retail workers, as 67% say they are more likely to purchase a product if they receive personable and friendly customer service. Retail workers recognise this too, arguing that friendly and familiar retail staff are the main reason shoppers return to their store (63%,) followed by staff taking the time to understand shoppers needs and requirements, at 42%.

What's more, shoppers would rather speak to retail workers over technology for almost all in store shopping needs, particularly when buying high value items, or when seeking advice about a product at 65%. Unsurprisingly, consumers are most reliant upon retail workers when it comes to purchasing health/prescription products at 81% and specialist items at 78% .

Oliver Wren, Jobs Expert at Retail Choice, says:- "While technology's increasing presence in the retail sector sparks mixed reactions from consumers, our research highlights the importance of retail workers, who continue to be central to the future of the industry. Whilst there is appetite from consumers for more technology in the retail sector, our research reveals that shoppers have a real preference for speaking to retail staff over technology, particularly when it comes to the functions and support technology can't quite match workers on. With this in mind, retailers must be careful not to over-automate their stores. Too much technology, which might often falter or over-complicate the retail experience, is likely to deter shoppers. What's more, the research shows that retail employees are the key to empowering business growth. Employers need to invest in their staff as well as investing in new technology, to ensure retail workers can focus on delivering what they do best: exceptional customer service."

Importantly, 81% of retail workers said that they felt people were still at the heart of the retail industry. However, 44% of workers felt their employer wasn't providing them with enough training to keep up with changes in technology. To help alleviate this skills gap, 61% of workers would like their company to hire an in store technology expert to help resolve technology issues, while 72% were keen to undertake online training modules.

While there is certainly an appetite for tech in product location or transactional situations where the technology will speed up the shopping experience, this is most significant for younger shoppers. Consumers would rather interact with a retail worker in all in store scenarios, bar checking the price of a product, for which 51% would prefer to use technology. 37% say shoppers see the benefits of in store technology for the faster checkout procedure, or to gain more information about products (24%). Though, 34% say they do not see any benefits, with this rising to 51% of those aged 55+. Meanwhile for retail workers, tech is seen as being most beneficial to check if a product is in stock (58%) or to locate a specific product in the store at 48%.

Only 27% of Brits said they would be comfortable being served by a robot in a store, highlighting the continued need for personalised, human customer support in stores. This is particularly pertinent for retailers serving older customers, as only 13% of those aged 55+ said they would be comfortable being served by technology, therefore retailers need to consider their target market before bringing in new technologies to their stores. While 62% of retail workers are confident that they won't be replaced by a robot, Retail Choice's research highlights that employers need to ensure they up skill their staff and give them the tools they need to continue their essential work well into the future.

What are your views on this topic? Please email us your thoughts to:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com.

Breakfast boost for keyworker Schools open in Liverpool

KELLOGG'S has grants of ₤1,000 available to support Schools in Liverpool that have remained open for the families of keyworkers. The breakfast grant can be spent on anything the School needs to make breakfast at School a possibility. Schools can apply by visiting:- Kelloggs.Co.UK. The Kellogg's breakfast programme has extended its usual grant scheme to support Schools that are remaining open to look after key worker and vulnerable children. All open Schools can apply for ₤1,000 grants, which can be used to purchase any appliances, equipment and food the School may need to prepare and provide breakfast at this time. The extended support originates from the Kellogg's breakfast club programme which has been running since 1998. Over the years Kellogg's has invested ₤4 million in training, food and grants for over 3,000 breakfast clubs. Kellogg's has also pledged to donate ½ a million meals to NHS staff and 3 million servings to food banks and community groups supporting the vulnerable. Chris Silcock, managing director for Kellogg's UK and Ireland, said:- "Kellogg's has supported School breakfast club schemes in the UK for 22 years and we know times like now are more important than ever to support Schools, and the pupils still attending. It's not just the children that benefit; it's a lifeline for key worker parents and teachers too."

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