Tuesday, 31 December 2013

And now for the Shopping Forecast…


 The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 is a British Institution, a bit like Morecambe and Wise at Christmas, wet weather at Wimbledon and the Queens speech. Even though I harbour no ambition to take to the open seas, I listen to it on a regular basis (not understanding every word) and there is something very soothing in being told there is a force 8 gale blowing off Cromarty when you are safety tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle and the latest Trollope (Joanne or Anthony take your pick). However, this morning when the announcer was asked if she has ever fluffed her lines when giving out the shipping news, she made mention of a colleague who after a late shift opened with the lines, “and now for the shopping forecast.”

This set the brain racing and after a little research I found that indeed there is a UK shopping forecast. Unfortunately, unlike the Met Office, the shopping centres are not grouped geographically, with updates on till queues or visibility across the food aisles which for consumers, would be extremely helpful. However, they do give a retail forecast for the year ahead and in fact up to 2015, and the good news is that they felt that as their 2012 forecast was a little too pessimistic, they have revised their figures for retail growth to 2% in 2014.

Consumers will spend on home products in 2014 and less on entertainment

Non-food growth will continue to outperform food growth and the areas they feel that consumers will spend their money on, is in clothing, homeware, sportswear, furniture, DIY, floor coverings and curtains. Their prediction for a downturn is around leisure, entertainment, electronics, music and books and they have been reviewing what the highs and lows have meant for the retailer. Although retail sales continue to improve they acknowledge that in their words “price competition is so vicious that there is little retail-inspired inflation about.” It would seem that we are busy snapping up the bargains and ensuring our hard earned cash goes as far as possible.

Let’s get back to basics with good customer service

What they do not comment on, is the increase in companies vying for our custom and the levels of customer service that each and every business now has to offer. There have been many papers written and computer programmes devised on sales forecasts and buying trends. Businesses are managed around data gathered and analysed, ensuring they have a comprehensive understanding of their customer’s behaviour. It is a pity therefore that some them fail to offer even the basics of good customer service, whilst others have had happy consumers logging onto iRateiSlate and singing their praises.

If there is going to be a downturn in some of the retail sectors mentioned above, then now is a good time for those in the industry to work on their customer facing skills, improving their online reputation and winning back valuable custom as well as attracting new consumers. Here at iRateiSlate, we are only too happy to help them with this in the year to come, so let’s all work towards a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2014 for all.

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