Understaffing and outdated tech become barriers for UK retail workers

Over half (53%) of UK retail staff feel unable to provide good levels of customer service as a result of understaffing, a survey by retail IT consultancy and technology firm REPL Group has revealed.

The survey of more than 500 retail workers in the UK also reported that 44% say the biggest frustration in the industry is using outdated technology and a lack of training. Job insecurity due to high street closures was found to be a major concern for 22% of retail workers, while 15% said that customers coming into store for advice only to then buy the item online is their biggest frustration.

“We are finding that a large number of retailers are being held back by their existing digital set-up,” commented Mike Callender, executive chairman, REPL Group. “These retailers must invest in new technology to address the concerns expressed by retail workers and avoid being left behind. By deploying up-to-date instore technology, including POS upgrades, retailers will be able to overcome customer service frustrations by allowing its employees to easily place orders and check stock from the shop floor.”

The research went on to reveal that almost half (46%) of those surveyed believe that stores managing their workforce more efficiently would improve their job satisfaction, while 70% feel more flexibility on pricing to match online competitors and more accurate forecasting would result in higher levels of instore engagement. According to 18% of respondents, their job satisfaction would be enhanced by having access to a customer’s purchase history when they walk into the store.

“It is vital that retailers address these shortfalls in workforce management and forecasting by upgrading their current systems. By adopting new AI technology, retailers can gain access to more granular insights and simplify calculating forecasts and demand,” Callender continued.

The study also found that more than three-quarters (76%) of retail workers say that their store has been left unprepared for spikes in demand of certain products, particularly in the lead up to major games during this summer’s World Cup and periods of extremely hot weather.

“From the poll, we can also see that the majority of retail workers believe the high street is currently too rigid and lacks the flexibility in pricing offered by online shopping. Sadly, this could be the high street’s downfall, unless store owners act on the observations of those working on the shop floor and provide them with the correct tools to overcome these issues, perform their roles effectively and offer a better level of customer service,” added Callender.

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