Facing Inflation: What does it mean for the retail sector?
Since the pandemic, the retail industry has experienced increasing uncertainty as it now finds itself dealing with inflation and the potential consequences it may bring. With the cost of gasoline, groceries, and other items rising steadily, this new international crisis leaves consumers and retailers wondering about the industry’s future.
As the Shopify article explains very well, consumer price inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is the official measure of inflation in Canada and is representative of the change in prices that the average Canadian household pays. In fact, Canada’s annual inflation rate reached 8.1% in June 2022, the highest rate since January 1983, and affects all sectors: energy, food, and raw materials. Let’s take a closer look at how these rising prices are impacting retailers’ businesses.
To understand how inflation is impacting the retail sector, one must first consider that retailers are highly dependent on the global supply chain and consumer buying habits, which are being completely disrupted.
Supply chain disruption
In an inflationary environment, one of the primary sources of disruption for retailers are supply chain issues. During the health crisis, shoppers’ consumption habits changed completely, with a sharp increase in online ordering for physical goods in particular, as in-person experiences were no longer allowed. This unprecedented increase in demand for products such as electronic devices and furniture triggered a rise in demand that was accompanied by a need to increase transport capacity. As a result, ports became overcrowded, and shipping costs exploded.
A change in consumer behavior
Secondly, rising prices force consumers to be more careful with their spending and are more concerned about preserving the value of their existing cash and covering their debts and daily expenses. This decline in purchasing power does not help retailers, who are affected by declining revenues and inventory forecasting problems.
Raising wages to retain employees
Finally, under the pressure of inflation and a booming labor market, many retailers have increased wages in an effort to retain employees. In addition, with increased competition among employers to hire and retain workers, many retail employees are leaving their jobs to pursue new and more lucrative opportunities.
In what ways can retailers better prepare for and therefore protect themselves from such uncertainties?
Invest in in-store technology
To prevent such situations, many retailers are making a strategic choice to install in-store technologies and improve their IT systems to optimize their inventory, customer relations, and all operations to make them more efficient and productive.
Some of the industry’s highly coveted technologies include self-service checkout, electronic shelf labels, smart shelves, and software that securely stores data.
Electronic shelf labels (ESL) are perhaps one of the most popular solutions for retailers, especially in the context of inflation. By automating pricing, ESLs not only free employees from the tedious task of changing prices daily, but also display a wealth of product information.