1 in 5 retailers not investing post-pandemic as ambition slumps, research reveals

1 in 5 retailers not investing post-pandemic as ambition slumps, research reveals

  • 21% of senior leaders in retail have no investment plan
  • Supply chain uncertainty is biggest concern for retail bosses
  • Retail boss ambition slumped by 21% during the pandemic

New research from law firm Shakespeare Martineau shows that 1 in 5 retail bosses have no plans to invest now and in the near future. 

Top investment priorities for leaders in retail included technology (35%), product development (27%) and entering new markets (26%) – differing from the wider business pool, where the top three were technology (37%), IT (31%) and learning and development (27%). 

When asked what was holding their businesses back, supply chain uncertainty was a big worry for retail bosses, with almost 1 in 3 (32%) selecting this option and 88% of those worried about supply chain stating that it had a negative impact on their ambition. 

Julian Joseph, partner and retail sector expert at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “We’re mostly seeing small, independent businesses holding back on investment at the minute because there is so much market uncertainty. However, the big players in the market are seeing this as a huge opportunity to clean up, with many in an acquisitive mode, particularly in fashion retail. 

“And I am not surprised to see that of those who are investing that there is a focus on technology, new products and new markets. Automation is crucial within warehousing and logistics to keep up with customer demand and improve efficiencies. Product development is the life-blood of the retail sector – creating and following the latest trends and can support a step into new markets locally and internationally.”

The Ambition Index* was conducted with 1,000 senior decision-makers in UK businesses across a range of sectors to indicate how feelings of ambition and loneliness have changed prior to and during the pandemic as well as a look ahead now and in the future. 

Prior to the pandemic, 93% of retail business leaders felt ambitious – including 43% claiming to be ‘very ambitious’. 

During the pandemic those feeling ‘very ambitious’ dropped to just 26%, with overall feelings of ambition down to 72%. 

Now, ambition levels are beginning to rise once more, with 79% of senior leaders claiming a positive outlook for the next 18 months.

Julian said: “Retail has been through a lot of change and pressure. There are reports that retail sales have spiked in November due to consumers concerned about being caught out at Christmas due to supply chain issues.

“However, issues around supply chain will not last forever, and agility is a key component to any business strategy; I would encourage retail bosses to get advice about investing long term as circumstances can change so rapidly – as markets pick up, retailers don’t want to be left behind.”

As well as an adverse effect on ambition, the pandemic has increased feelings of loneliness and isolation across the UK’s top bosses: more than half (56%) of all business leaders surveyed said they felt lonely or isolated during the pandemic, an increase from 24% prior to the pandemic.  

Julian said: “It can be very lonely at the top, but it’s important that leaders of all sectors talk about the emotional – as well as the practical – side of leadership with peers and trusted advisors. It’s good to note that 79% of retail bosses are investing and that ambition is back on the rise.”


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