‘An online sales tax is a terrible idea’ – retail experts discuss the future of the sector in video debate

Special Live panel discussion - are UK offices no longer fit for purpose? brought to you by harrison clark rickerbys

Watch the live panel debate here

The last twelve months have been tough for the High Street and physical retail stores but on the flipside, many online retail businesses have flourished – buoyed by the lockdown measures. But what will happen now as the economy opens up? Will a rush back to the shops prove that the High Street has viability or have consumer spending habits fundamentally changed forever?

Business Leader has partnered with Descartes to explore this topic and look at what is next for the retail sector. With 70% of retail still bricks and mortar, is the reality actually going to a mix of both physical and online? And what does this mean for the customer experience; how will technology improve the customer retail journey and is Amazon’s move to High Street a sign of things to come?

The panel:

• Pol Sweeney: VP Sales & Country Manager UK, Descartes
• Preston Benson: founder, Really Local Group
• Martin Bysh: CEO & Co-founder, Huboo
• Kate Hardcastle MBE: The Customer Whisperer & founder of Insight with Passion
• Chris McShane: Director – Strategy, Transformation and Business Development, Halfords PLC
• Lee Reed: Head of Product and Marketing, Easy Bathrooms
• David Young: CEO, Bradfords Building Supplies

Here’s a breakdown of what we covered:

Pol Sweeney: Retail is a core sector for Descartes, and you work with businesses across food and beverage, furniture, electronics and much more. Have you ever seen a year like the one we have had? (2:34)
Pol Sweeney: With much more online shopping – what has meant for innovation around deliveries and the customer experience? (5:11)
Chris McShane: The pandemic has meant that many retailers could not even open but as an essential provider of motoring products and services, Halfords did remain open throughout the pandemic. What customer behaviour changes has your business seen through that period? (6:31)
David Young: Bradfords has been in business for 250 years – would you say this was the biggest change you have undergone? (10:14)
Martin Bysh: It can sometimes be framed as online vs the high street and that the high street is dying but 70% of retail is still physical stores so yes the high street may be struggling but people are still going into stores and shops it seems. How do you see the future when it comes to where we will shop? (14:08)
Kate Hardcastle MBE: How can the high street – and particularly many of the small independents – can prosper going forward and what do you feel they need to do – what is that consumers want in your opinion? (17:08)
Kate Hardcastle MBE: Do you think the Government can – and should – do more to help small businesses, when it comes to business rates etc? (19:51)
Preston Benson: You are the founder of the Really Local Group and I am interested to get your take on how the High Street can adapt and thrive, considering how we approach future projects and regeneration? (22:08)
Martin Bysh, Pol Sweeney, Chris McShane, Preston Benson & David Young: Could an online sales tax work? If implemented, should it be only for businesses that generate more than £8-10m for example in revenue? (24:36)
Kate Hardcastle MBE, Martin Bysh & Lee Reed: What can online retailers do to impress consumers and keep them using their products or services? (31:50)

Questions from the audience

David Young, Kate Hardcastle MBE & Martin Bysh: What roles does the panel see technology having the future of retail and how it can improve the customer experience? (40:23)
Pol Sweeney, Preston Benson, Lee Reed & Chris McShane: In physical retail, could we robots serving us? (45:34)

• Final word from Kate Hardcastle MBE (49:25)
• Final word from Chris McShane (50:19)
• Final word from Martin Bysh (50:58)
• Final word from Lee Reed (51:45)
• Final word from Preston Benson (52:24)
• Final word from David Young (53:04)
• Final word from Pol Sweeney (53:59)

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