With a three million-strong workforce and consistent year-on-year growth, the retail sector is a significant contributor to the UK economy.

The move from store-based retail to multi-channel retail and now to a more tailored, customer-specific ‘omni-channel’ model of retailing means that retailers must be able to personalise the mass market and provide opportunities for people to shop away from the traditional spaces; indeed, retailers must give opportunities to purchase anywhere that customers choose to shop. Innovations in this space have seen the use of QR codes to link direct from bus stop advertisements to mobile product pages, and for users of social streams such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to seamlessly purchase goods without having to leave the app.

The idea of retailing in ‘real time’ provides opportunity for those who have the lean capability to move fast and take advantage of opportunities quickly: most retailers have no capacity for real time retailing so those who make the first moves could benefit most.

Challenges for the sector include keeping up with developments in shopper technology (mobile sales, for example), developing customer retention and attraction strategies, maintaining an effective supply chain that is capable of responding to the desire of ‘instant availability’ and maintaining a business that is flexible enough to change where it is required to do so whilst remaining a strong entity in the market.