RSM’s What’s in Store? spoke to 250 retail executives to gauge what issues and consumer trends are driving boardroom conversations and business priorities for the future.
The survey revealed that the ethical buyer was the joint top area of focus for retailers in the next two years, combined with demand for more flexible and faster delivery – highlighting the impact consumer behaviour has on future retail strategy.
Brand reputation was the top response (37%) when retailers were asked about their motivation for considering their social and environmental impact. Attracting and retaining customers closely followed with 36%.
In addition, more than half (55%) of retailers see reducing their carbon footprint as the most important social and environmental issue that retail businesses need to address; with sustainable supply chains (53%) and being a conscious employer (52%) making up the top three most prominent issues.
However, it found only 37% of retailers said that reducing environmental impact was a priority for them – which RS said highlights a “slight mismatch between views and action”.
Jacqui Baker, head of retail at RSM UK, said: “The importance of strong ethical credentials to consumer-facing brands can’t be overstated. The ethical buyer spends with brands that have a positive impact on society and are more likely to buycott brands that fall short.
“So, it’s not surprising that brand reputation is the main driver for social and environmental changes as high-profile naming and shaming for poor treatment of staff and suppliers not only creates a reputational and commercial risk, but it can make it much harder to attract new staff and customers.”
She added: “Being a conscious employer goes way beyond brand reputation, it needs to be embedded into the fabric and culture of the business to really resonate with employees and consumers.”