Covid-19: Shoppers value retail staff more highly in crisis

One in four people in the UK knows somebody who has been displaced from their job by the Covid-19 crisis and gone on to find employment in the retail sector, according to new research.

The study, by job board RetailChoice, also said shoppers have become increasingly conscious of how important retail staff are since the pandemic began. Nearly three quarters (72%) said they would consider not shopping at a retailer if human staff were all replaced with technology; the figure rises to 83% among shoppers aged over 55. Half of the shoppers who took part in the survey said they return to favourite stores because of good customer service from employees.

The survey also discovered that nearly half of retail workers feel that their employer is not providing the training they need to keep up with the pace of change in retail technology. Nearly two thirds of them felt that they would benefit from an in-store technology expert to help them resolve tech issues.

“Whilst there is appetite from retail workers for more in-store technology to automate basic functions, our research highlights that people are still very much at the heart of the industry. Retail staff recognise the value of their work in providing personalised customer service and shoppers prefer to speak to retail staff over technology, particularly when it comes to advice or support,” said RetailChoice jobs expert Oliver Wren.

“With this in mind, retailers must be careful not to over-automate their stores. Too much technology, which might falter or over-complicate the retail experience, is likely to frustrate workers and consumers alike. What’s more, the research shows that half of retail workers don’t feel they have received the necessary training to keep up with changes in technology. Employers need to invest in their staff as well as investing in new technology, to ensure retail workers can focus on delivering what they do best: exceptional customer service.”