The 5 biggest challenges (and opportunities) facing retail


What are your biggest challenges? Could you turn them into your biggest opportunities?

Having interviewed operational and HR leaders from organisations across the UK, the top 5 challenges they’re facing are:

  • Managing change, complexity and risk
  • Improving collaboration, cross-functional working and customer experience
  • Thinking outside the box to improve productivity, innovation and competitive advantage
  • Improving efficiency, time and speed of delivery
  • Engaging, retaining and growing talent.

  These 5 challenges pose the question: what leadership style can you use that is suitable for all of these challenges?

A New Leadership Model

The challenges above present a clear need for a new leadership model. I have spent the last 3 years shaping a new, adaptive leadership model – the Full Brain. The Full Brain model is designed to give leaders a leadership model that can be used in every situation; that allows leaders to use the model to adapt their leadership style on the fly to match the needs of any given situation. Using the Full Brain model, you utilise three of your body’s neural networks’ (or brains), all of which contribute toward the accurate assessment, and response to, a situation. The model focuses on utilising the three brains:

  • Thinking Brain: The most obvious neural network. This brain focuses on utilising your intellectual, rational side and greatly influences your technical leadership.
  • Heart Brain: With its own complex and independent neural network, the heart brain is the source of your emotional intelligence and is crucial for adaptive leadership.
  • Infinite Brain: Often described as a ‘gut feeling’, the infinite brain takes advantage of your gut’s independent neural network to utilise your intuition and transformative leadership.

But, how do you use the Full Brain model to tackle the challenges above? I will answer that in each of our 5-part series in the upcoming weeks. But for now, keep reading to learn more about these challenges, their impact, and the need to convert them into opportunities.

1. Managing change, complexity and risk

Change drives success in retail. Whether change involves mergers and acquisitions, expansion and consolidation, supply chain management, addressing consumer and demographic trends, dealing with profits being squeezed, embracing omni-channel systems, adapting to mobile shoppers or introducing more flexibility into business process, being agile and responsive to change is critical. How do you create an environment responsive to change? How do you embrace that change and use it to gain competitive advantage?

2. Improving collaboration, cross-functional working and customer experience

Retailers are under increasing pressure to deploy a real-time retail model across all channels, eliminating individual channel silos and offering a holistic experience across all customer touch points. The need for collaborative, cross-functional leaders to be able to work together across boundaries to achieve shared success has never been greater.

3. Thinking outside the box to improve productivity, innovation and competitive advantage

Continually being open to new ideas, thinking, feeling, intuiting and scanning the horizon for trends and opportunities are key to leveraging competitive advantage and improving your business for customers. Creating an environment where ideas are encouraged and developed, and being connected to the latest thinking, allows you to innovate and exceed customer expectations without eroding profits.

4. Improving efficiency, time and speed of delivery

In the world of retail – cheaper, faster, better is no longer an aspiration, it’s a necessity. Efficiency drives competitive success. The greater a leader’s ability to streamline and create a ‘flow’ state, the better. Tight budgets, achieving more with less staff and information overload all contribute to the time challenge of every manager in the sector.

5. Engaging, Retaining and Growing Talent       

Many retail companies are currently dealing with restructuring challenges, low engagement levels, high levels of staff turnover, staff retention and skills shortages. No leader or manager can be complacent about taking care of their people. Holding onto top talent, embracing diversity to add more value and grow the leadership pipeline are key to leadership success. I’m curious, of the 5 challenges listed above, which one is the most significant in your organisation? What are you willing to do about it? Let me know at I would love to hear from you!  

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