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How are we embracing the ever-changing face of retail in Jersey?

Business | Published:

By Lorie Rault, chief executive of the Jersey Retail Association

Lorie Rault, chief executive of the Jersey Retail Association

Opportunities for employees to progress quickly in their retail careers are ripe, and yet as a sector we still struggle to fill vacancies

Stop to think about how many times you buy something in Jersey each day and it will be no surprise that retail is the second biggest employer in the Island.

When you nip out to pick up the JEP, choose a new pair of glasses, or pick up some headache tablets, you are having a retail experience. Choosing a wedding dress, your child’s first bike or buying the family car illustrates just what a vibrant retail offer Jersey has, extending across the whole Island and supporting all our communities.

Shops are having a challenging time as consumers change their spending habits and have less disposable income. Fifteen per cent of retail revenue now comes from online trade and that has grown from 12% just two years ago. Challenging yes, but as we need to make sure the industry is sustainable for the future, I believe this is not doom and gloom, but a reinvention that will stimulate innovation in the sector.

For instance, the challenges that the sector faces has led the retail industry in Jersey to create its own industry body called the Jersey Retail Association, or JRA to our members. The JRA started signing up members in October 2017 and by the end of February 2018 had employed me as its first chief executive, working full time to provide a new clear voice for retail in Jersey.

The JRA is a not-for-profit organisation where membership fees, and a start-up grant from the States of Jersey, directly fund the active work we do supporting and promoting the sector. Our membership community is made up of retail managers and owners who set the priorities for our actions and we feed back the insights and resources we gather, adding real value to membership.

I’ve been a retail manager here in Jersey for more than 15 years and this is the biggest period of change I’ve seen in all those years. However, in all that time Jersey has retained fantastic customers and equally fantastic retail staff, each of whom drive the industry forward, because retail is all about people. Yes, we need a great product and a fair price, but when you think about a great shopping experience, it’s the sales assistant’s genuine interest, their ability to help and their big smile that creates the feeling of familiarity that our local stores deliver. if you can see a happy team who love what they do, you know you are in a store being led by an individual who is passionate about retail.

The JRA is building on this sense of community within retail to make sure that members have access to relevant, up-to-date information and the fantastic resources and ideas offered by partner organisations so that together retailers can respond positively to the changing retail environment.

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Within my first three months I have replied to 2000 emails, had 70 one-to-one meetings and created 15 seminars, focus groups and training sessions. The engagement and passion of our members is amazing and the organisation already represents 1,883 employees, which is a quarter of the Island’s retail workforce.

I think this engagement is because members are seeing real change and for the first time feel that their views are being listened to. The JRA work closely with different departments within the States of Jersey, we chair the Retail Steering Group which is developing a new retail strategy and we are asked to represent the views of retail in both consultations and focus groups. We work closely with Visit Jersey and the Jersey Hospitality Association to make sure we understand the needs of visitors and the opportunities that increasing visitor numbers give the whole of Jersey.

With more than £720 million in turnover each year, the value that the retail industry brings to the economy is fantastic – especially given the size of the Island’s geography and population.

Opportunities for employees to progress quickly in their retail careers are ripe, and yet as a sector we still struggle to fill vacancies. As a result, the JRA is already involved with multiple projects to influence the retail workers of the future by engaging with secondary and higher education while assessing and bridging the skills shortages in the current workforce.

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In January 2017 Highlands and Trackers launched a new retail apprenticeship which is doing an amazing job of developing local retail talent. Having started with 13 apprentices, the course achieved 100% pass rate and received fantastic feedback from the industry. Building on this success, an advanced level has been added this year and the number of apprentices has doubled. This year, for the first time, retail will feature as a career in the Labour Market Information booklet that goes out to all the secondary schools in Jersey.

So how is the retail community grasping the opportunities that this new wave of change is bringing? Well, the JRA is the vehicle to bring all of this together in a meaningful way for retailers in Jersey. We influence the things that really matter to retailers, provide insight, support and advice, while promoting the sector, providing a clear purpose in all we do.

If you want to find out more, we are welcoming all retailers and businesses involved in the industry to our next open meeting on Tuesday 12 June at 6.30 pm in the Town Hall in St Helier. Come and hear our six-month review, network with other businesses and hear our guest speaker from Google discussing the best way to write for social media.

lEmail me at lorie.rault@jra.je for more information on joining as a member or providing sponsorship and member benefits.

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