Retail Jersey: Past, present and future

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Onogo company at St Peter's Technical Park.  Paul Murphy, ceo                                                              Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31860181)
Onogo company at St Peter's Technical Park. Paul Murphy, ceo Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31860181)

By Paul Murphy, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Retail & Supply Chain Committee

WHAT retail is, and how it can best be described or valued, is an article in itself. So let’s try and develop a framework to analyse retail in Jersey. Retail is, for all of us, a provider of products, a service, an interaction between producers and consumers, a popular leisure activity even, and a transaction that provides a product to you at a value you see appropriate.

In Jersey, the retail market is valued at £1.25bn per year. When we look more closely at this, we estimate that this translates into 11.25m shopping trips per year into retail businesses throughout the Island. But retail is far more than a sum of numbers.

We live, love and use purchases in so many ways and it is a part of our DNA to shop, spend and value the experience as a pastime. After all, we spend £1.25bn and the vast majority of that, estimated at 60%-70% of this overall figure, is physical spend in stores. There are 950 retail and wholesale operators in Jersey. Interestingly, we have 840 businesses that have between one and nine employees and, in total, retail employs more than 6,940 people (as of June 2020). Of course, this leads to a much larger ecosystem of supply chain, service partners and providers, adding to the overall value of retail to our economy.

Past

There is a rich and deep heritage in retail and commerce with a number of stores established in Jersey as early as the 1800s still going strong some 200 or so years later. Our Chamber of Commerce was established in 1768 and is the oldest English-speaking chamber in the world, existing today to promote trade.

This shows that retailing isn’t new to the Island and has been cultivated to achieve the scale of services we have today. But why look to the past? Well, it shows many changes, ranging from single shopkeepers to the launch of the web and ecommerce. We see the rapid pace of change and a shift to ‘the age of the consumer’.

Choice is now far greater, with 24/7 virtual shopping. The ways in which we purchase have changed forever thanks to the ‘tech revolution’, which means that fighting for attention and remaining relevant today is a positive challenge for business.

Recovery from the pandemic has hit many sectors and retail, like others, has had to adapt and support enormous change, while remaining capable of operating in the toughest of conditions. Supply chains withstood the challenges, customers took to new ways of shopping and retail supported a new way of working.

Although we may have seen the return to physically shopping in stores, retail is slowly recovering and realising that this pandemic drove three-to-five years of shopping change in as little as a year. This is an amazing story and shows how very resilient the industry remains, but there is no room for complacency and it will take the whole Island community to ensure we support the changes and challenges ahead in retail.

Present

What does the present look like? To a degree, like the past, and the sector is still very much dealing with the fall-out from Brexit and Covid, both of which have created global and local concerns.

Manufacturing has slowed worldwide for many products and, on restarting, many firms have found that costs of operation, manufacturing and distribution have increased. Combined with this, global supply chains that have been highly productive and efficient distribution models for many years, are now experiencing bottlenecks as they restart and support demand.

With Brexit and Covid factors combined, Island retailers are currently facing shortages in labour of up to 10%. There are no silver bullets to repair this but the actions we take must include reducing restrictions on labour entering Jersey and making the Island more attractive to potential workers. This could include accommodation that is affordable and attractive for them. Chamber is working with businesses and the government to shine a light on these topics and to look at methods, both in the short and the long term, to ensure that retail is supported as a progressive and positive career choice, and that key skills are developed in the Island.

Future

Challenging questions will remain for retail and for us all but, as consumers, we will also demand that retail ‘gives me convenience, gives me value and gives me choice’. Consumers will say that if retailers do not do this, they will choose to shop elsewhere.

We must ensure that we do not collectively miss the opportunities to develop with the shifts, support the changes in shopping and ensure that government and industry work and act using collaboration, insights and relevant data.

We live in a world where information costs less and is in abundance. We can harvest insights from many areas. Chamber continues to support industry and the government can take key steps to close this gap and to ensure our decisions become better informed and agile. This will result in another 200-plus years of evolution, while providing excellent retail services to our community.

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