A Retail Dilemma: “No Business, No People!” or “No People, No Business!”


A Retail Dilemma: “No Business,  No People!” or “No People, No Business!”


Thanks to everyone who contributed to last week’s post on John Lewis and their approach to investment in the face of cost-cutting and delivering profit.

One really important issue raised is a fundamental dilemma for current retail strategists.

“No business, No People!”

Of course, if there is no business then there will be no people, so every attempt must be made to make any business viable and protect its workforce. However how you ensure this survival and growth is a matter of debate and strategic differences.

Certainly, for John Lewis, playing to its historical strength and publicly perceived USP, the way to growth is “No People – No business!” even if it’s more immediate stability does require cutting its costs including its workforce.

So, this means any retailer’s individual strategy may, or may not, put people first…or does it?

Anyone who has worked within retail through the various cycles of economic downturn and technological advancement of the last decades has witnessed a significant rationalisation of processes and resources. The survivors in the modern era of retail have generally become leaner and more-efficient. They are still here.

This does not mean that there aren’t further improvements and cost savings always to be made. The ever-evolving technologies offer this prospect, changing working practices and updating of legacy organisational structures another, whilst reducing store portfolios and the cost of operations behind them will lead to rationalised and reduced costs in most cases.

Ultimately being a lean retail machine will guarantee nothing, except a possible stay of execution.

Investment is the only way to prosper in the retail marketplace.

How you invest your money, your time and your practical and emotional involvement is a matter for each business to define. One thing is for sure, investment will have to be in people.

We come back as always to the customer. This is really who you are investing in.

The customer will no longer suffer and tolerate average retailer performance. That performance may be store service, product development, online usability, logistical efficiency or any number of other retail functions and touchpoints.

The way to lift performance away from the average will always come through people.

Across the retail industry, across the supply-chain world, through the buying and merchandising processes, technological super-highways, and in the myriad of physical and virtual stores that serve the customer, the correct and appropriate investment in people is essential.

This can be an investment in experience and talent, a commitment to training, an injection of passion or simply the giving and sharing of time and consideration.

In today’s customer-centric world the last-man standing scenario will be “No people! No Business!”




How are you investing in your business?

Have you come to the end of benefit from cost-cutting initiatives?

We’d love to hear your experiences.


Sleep on it and let us know in the morning…


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