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As executive headhunters, we make it our business to stay abreast of what’s happening in the sectors we serve. It puts us in pole position to find the best candidates: those who think and act upon those same consumer trends. Our founder, Daniel Cornwell, has already written about hospitality this year and what’s changing; have a read of his LinkedIn post if that interests you.

However, we also want to examine retail. Our work with key players in this industry has made us one of the top executive search firms in the UK. Here’s the lowdown for 2018.

1. The experiential fightback

It wasn’t too long ago that people were sounding a death knell for the high street. Wisdom told us that it was only a matter of time before physical stores folded in the face of online competition – but that hasn’t quite happened.

In fact, 2018 has been a reinforcement of how much we value the experiential purchase, where physical stores make us feel welcome and cared for. A Retail Week report highlighted the trend within young millennials. It’s well worth a read.

More brands will be using their venues for parties, competitions, creative displays, personal stylists and opportunities to sample new products. The cosmetics company Lush are a fabulous example of why customers love coming back to a place they enjoy, as shown in their 2018 Which? ranking.

2. Omnichannel shopping is on the rise

However, digital is still the predominant purchasing medium. Four out of five shoppers will use an app to order, if it’s available. Yet only 51% of companies – out of 240 British retailers – have launched their own so far. Omnichannel support, whereby all touchpoints are linked together, seems to be worth the investment.

ASOS is a great example of consumer choice: people can buy from their website, app, mobile site or Facebook page. This has contributed to the 16% spike in UK sales, valued at £698.2m, and expected growth of 25-30% by the end of the year. JD Sports have carved their mark on the mobile app sphere, with an excellent UX for iPad and iPhones that is riding the demand for ‘athlesiure’ clothing.

3. Tailored delivery, installation and VR

Many of us want as much convenience as possible – and this may involve staying at home and waiting for our products to come to us, instead of the other way around. Just like hospitality trends, retail is serious about home deliveries, to the extent that they’re shaping what’s to come for basic services.

IKEA, for instance, felt the heat from Amazon’s increasing range of delivery and installation options. In response, it acquired TaskRabbit, which acts as a hub for gig economy workers (including handymen, electricians and moving operators) who can dress a space up before they leave. Meanwhile, L’Oréal are leading the charge for Virtual Reality try-before-you-buy, allowing users to experiment with makeup, via a screen, from the comfort of their dressing table.

These are the trends that British retailers must get behind to stay competitive. The second half of the year may throw more curveballs at the leaders who can catch them; it’s our job to find those individuals, get them to the right positions, and prove our creed as executive headhunters. Does your brand need some first-class new talent? Speak to us for a consultation, and let’s see where we can go together…