What retail CEOs are thinking

RetailME Bureau

Technology, changing consumer behaviours and an uncertain economic and geopolitical landscape feature high in the minds of retail CEOs this year, indicates PwC’s latest report ‘Navigating the New Retail Reality: views of Middle Eastern retail CEOs.’

Among their priorities are a strong push on digital, cited as top priority by 88% of the CEOs interviewed; followed by cost optimisation and restructuring cited by 50% and challenges around the shortage of digital talent and training was cited by 50%.

Commenting on the report, Norma Taki, consumer markets leader at PwC Middle East, says, “Change is the one constant for retail CEOs in the Middle East. Like all retailers across the world, they must keep pace with the new technology that is changing the way people consume products and services. But in the region, the changes go far beyond the disruption of online retailing: consumers are more price-sensitive today; they are less brand-loyal and economies are reforming.”

“It goes without saying — technology enables transactional efficiency, faster home-delivery and stock management, but our findings also tell us that Middle East retail CEOs are still facing the greatest challenge of all – a scarcity of local digital talent and training,” he adds.

With a more cautious outlook on the economy than ever before, the survey indicates that retailers are increasingly focusing on streamlining their businesses, managing cash flows and optimising costs. They are also well aware of the need to build sustainable businesses for the future as well as of changing consumer demands, both of which will require agility and prudence. This is especially true when it comes to retailers’ adoption of new technologies that merge traditional shopping with an online presence to produce an engaging and seamless multi-channel experience.

In this context, Hisham Al Amoudi CEO of Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group, states, “The key learning is that bricks-and-mortar is still very strong in the region – the brands that focus on customer experience, coupled with newness and innovation in products and services will always win.”

“The CEOs we interviewed this year all identified very similar concerns – with one common denominator: the need to adapt to change. First, how to develop the agility to respond quickly to market changes and new customer demands; how to attract and retain talent; and how to keep up with the pace of advances in digital technology, all against an increasingly uncertain macroeconomic context. That is why today, the opportunity lies in the hands of the retailers that are able to adapt, innovate and effectively compete against this still unfolding backdrop,” concludes Taki.