Insight Director, David Lockwood chaired a Retail Leaders Forum last week – an online discussion group of retail leaders sharing challenges and successes. Here are the key views, results and benchmarks – unattributed due to our Chatham House Rule. As ever there will be exceptions to the views expressed here. There are certainly nuggets to take away. Contact us at if you are interested in joining the next one – [email protected].

David generally breaks the ice with a few current retail indicators to provide context. Thankfully some good amongst the not so good.

Inflation has nudged back to less than 10%. GDP at +0.1% is scrabbling to keep recession at bay. December retail sales were up 3.8% by value but down 5% by volume – high inflation at work. Online sales as a percentage of total retail have dropped back to 26.6% due in part to consumer delivery concerns as a result of the Royal Mail strikes and days lost due to the trading cut off. Consumer confidence remains close to an all-time low, with interest rates at 3.5% and climbing.

Overstocks are a feature across the board due to over budgeting. Many brands budgeted a flat 2022 but this has proved generally optimistic (Tapestry’s advice was to base 2022 responses on 2019).

Acquisition recruitment response rates are down across the board, direct mail exceptionally so, up to -60%.

Storytelling is proving powerful in improving conversion, e.g., why the best brand. People need a reason to buy.

Black Friday was better than expected and continued later. Promotions were earlier,longer and deeper. A number of retailers who hadn’t historically been involved in Black Friday promotions joined in this year.

January started tough but is improving. Royal Mail issues persist. Tapestry has a mailing house contact trialling Direct Mail track and trace.

Google Performance Max (Pmax) is proving successful for some. Wide mixed feelings over its black box nature and conflicting with paid search and SEO. No YoYs yet so difficult to compare. It is difficult to be agile, to react quickly to products becoming best sellers – so needs Google Shopping to support these.

TikTok is proving responsive across all demographics. More than one older demographic brand is enjoying success. Amateur style videos work well. TikTok Live is working.

To make sense of customers’ increasingly diverse multi-channel touchpoints with your brand, Tapestry’s advice is to deploy (our) proper incrementality testing and attribution modelling. Effective attribution requires planning and organisation but is indispensable. Some attribution systems have a tendency to over attribute the bottom of the funnel.  

Direct Mail’s multiple whammy of “sky high” paper and Royal Mail increases combined with reducing response rates is causing difficulties. Tapestry have enjoyed some success in suppressing the dilution effect introduced by non-direct Covid buyers.

GA4 is looming large. Tapestry expressed concern that many retailers had yet to start parallel running with GA Universal. They measure some metrics differently and understanding that will be critical in understanding future performance.

Time spent worrying about UX pays – again incremental improvements. More than one brand is building multi-person optimisation in-house teams. Contentsquare received positive comment, as does Dynamic Yield.

Budgeting keywords for 2023 include – caution, i.e. flat or less budget, SS likely tough, allow for losing covid customers, agility – tight buying, strong supply relationships, flexible and agile marketing.

Email [email protected] if you’re interested in attending a future Retail Leaders Forum.