Transforming Retail Awards: Q&A with Andy Harding, UK MD of awards sponsor Openpay

1. What attracted you and Openpay to be involved with the Retail Insider ‘Transforming Retail’ Awards?
The pandemic brought with it store closures on an unimaginable scale and challenges for many retailers which would have seemed insurmountable. Yet, through hard work and dedication, many teams innovated and pivoted to adapt to ever-changing customer demands. As the economy slowly
shows sign of recovery, I’m delighted to support Retail Insider and recognise the retailers who transformed and succeeded in an unprecedented year.

2. How important is it to have such industry awards?
Industry awards are always important. Not only do they offer recognition amongst peers, they also encourage teams to push boundaries, innovate and be creative. Now more than ever, it’s important to acknowledge the hard work. We know retail has been one of the hardest hit by the
pandemic so this year it’s vital that we not only recognise achievements, but we celebrate them.

Andy Harding of Openpay

3. What areas of retail do you think are being transformed the most?
This won’t come as a surprise to most that we’ve seen some of the biggest innovation in e-commerce across all sectors. For some retailers, especially those who relied heavily on physical bricks and mortar stores, lockdown exposed their weaknesses as consumer spending was forced online.

At the other extreme, supermarkets flourished. Retail essentials like groceries meant supermarkets were stretched beyond capacity as demand for online delivery exploded which ultimately resulted in some smart – albeit surprising – brand partnerships. We saw the likes of Aldi and Morrisons team up with Deliveroo as a way to meet demand, while Deliveroo itself launched its own range – Essentials by Deliveroo.
Recent data shows that many of these changed consumer habits are likely to stay so I’m excited to see how retailers adapt to the increasing reliance on online.

4. How is Covid-19 affecting things within retail?
Before the pandemic hit, Click & Collect was a huge contributor for store traffic and incremental sales, but also cost-effective distribution for many retailers. Now that many consumers are working from home, the resulting drop in commuter traffic and store visits will see revenue drop and costs rise as home delivery is near 100% of all online orders.

Fashion retailers in particular, especially those with inflexible supply chains, have been hugely affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 has unearthed flaws in their processes which have meant
they’ve had to write-off millions of pounds worth of stock and there were some big casualties. No doubt these brands are looking inwards to understand how they can adapt to survive.

5. Any predictions for the way retail technology is going?
I think we’ll see more and more retailers invest in their back-end operations. Fashion brands in particular, will no doubt be looking at how they can align their whole in-store inventory with their online stock to drive sales. Additionally, the need for social distancing is likely to continue so we may see fashion retailers invest in touch-less shopping experiences, like self-checkouts. Convenience shopping will be key for consumers going forwards.

The pandemic has also changed people’s attitudes to money. Furlough and economic uncertainty have meant consumers are more budget conscious, and spending is not likely to return to pre-pandemic levels. Retailers are increasingly looking at ways they can help their customers spread the
costs responsibly.

Buy now, pay later services, like Openpay, that require an upfront payment provide a financial framework and encourage consumers to only spend within their means. We’ve seen a significant interest in our service over the last few months and as a brand we strongly believe that actively encouraging consumers to buy only what they can afford is going to help build confidence in the industry.