A woman window shopping. Post-COVID, businesses are revolutionizing their operations to meet demands

Retail unlocked: Strategies for a new future

Karen Johnson, Head of Retail and Wholesale, Barclays Corporate Banking shares her insights into our latest research on how changing consumer behaviours are reshaping retail and how UK retailers are responding in innovative ways. Hear from UK lifestyle brand Joules on how their multi-channel model is setting them up for a sustainable future.

Back in business

Retailers are building back as the sector looks to the future. Since the full re-opening of non-essential retail on 12 April 2021, Britain’s shoppers, who feel safe about returning to the nation’s high streets, have released pent-up demand for the physical retail experience.

Even as lockdown eased, the working, living, and shopping habits formed over the pandemic have persisted. One of the key developments we expect to see continue is that home – or hybrid – workers will retain their preference for shopping locally.

Karen Johnson

Head of Retail & Wholesale, Barclays Corporate Banking

Our latest research explores how innovative, agile businesses are adapting their strategies to survive and thrive across the whole shopping journey. We investigate how retailers can leverage the opportunities, and unlock the value presented by, rapidly evolving consumer behaviours – both today and into the future.

Retailers are optimistic about future growth, with 80% confident of growth over the next 12 months, including 41% who are very confident.

Those shopping in-store are going local in greater numbers. UK retailers (with more than nine employees) could fuel demand for nearly 17,000 local high street premises over the coming 12 months.

Retailers are responding to changing consumer habits by enhancing the in-store offering with 29% introducing new experiences.

The store as we knew it must transform to meet the preferences and demands of today’s consumer. Retailers are already refreshing and reinventing in-store operations and experiences to attract, engage and retain the shoppers of today, tomorrow, and the future.

Karen Johnson

Head of Retail & Wholesale, Barclays Corporate Banking

Strategies for success

  • Embed ESG

    ESG is likely to be increasingly important to consumers, employees and other major stakeholders, so it’s important to have a plan and not to be afraid to publicise it. This plan should sit across everything from reducing carbon emissions from a product or operations perspective, to supporting recycling or reusable materials or renewable energy. This can also be externally monitored for credibility and linked to your financing arrangements.

  • Access to finance

    Access to the right level of finance is important for customers, suppliers and your business, so it’s important to have a strategy in place for all three. No single option suits all, but there are many ways of accessing capital, debt and liquidity.

  • Build back for the future

    Different generations have various preferences for how they shop, who they buy from and what they expect from brands. Retailers need to integrate new strategies to attract and retain younger consumers, so that they can future-proof their business.

  • Reduce friction

    Omnichannel is important, but minimal friction and smooth customer experience are even more important. The ideal scenario means marketing, selling, delivering and after-sales happening in whichever channel your customer wants. For that, retailers need strategic planning and the right technology and finance partners to facilitate payments.

  • Think local

    Our research shows that consumers are embracing local shopping alongside their other preferred channels. To capitalise on this opportunity, retailers should assess new physical options such as pop-ups, collaborations, and drop-off and collection points. Successful retailers will be harnessing data to enhance their understanding of customer demographics and key locations.


When a global pandemic shuts down physical retail stores, it certainly helps to have a multi-channel business strategy.

For over a year now, UK lifestyle brand Joules has focused on their multiple routes to market, concentrating on the shift to digital in particular.

Read our case study to learn how Joules built customer relationships online, growing their active customer base from 500,000 pre-pandemic to 1.3 million today, plus how they’re adapting to meet new customer demand on local high streets with a big focus on sustainability.

Joules leverages customer data to deliver consistent, relevant, and authentic communications and experiences across its channels, which serves to increase customers’ frequency of interaction and spend with the brand.

Nick Jones

CEO, Joules

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