It’s the third instalment of our WFH Diaries, where we bring you the insights, reflections and essentials of people from across the retail, hospitality and logistics industries.
This week’s diary is from Andrew Busby. Never one to miss a retail beat, Andrew is an author, Forbes contributor, founder of Retail Reflections and IBM Futurist. We spoke to Andrew to hear about his predictions for retail and to also hear how he’s approaching life in lockdown.
Andrew’s WFH Diary
Andrew, what role is retail playing in this current lockdown situation?
Pivotal. While some sectors have had to remain closed, grocers especially are keeping the country running. Now, that has always been the case, except that we never consciously realised. I would like to see retailers such as garden centres allowed to reopen as, at times like these, our mental wellbeing is paramount and gardens contribute to positive mental wellbeing.
What should retailers be doing now to “get it right”?
They should be doing the right thing by their staff and by their customers. Social distancing is the new hugging, so they can take a lead on that and show others – such as the hospitality vendors who aren’t yet allowed to trade yet – how to do it.
So much change and innovation has happened to the retail sector in the last few weeks. What trends have you seen emerging?
Hyper-local and hyper-collaboration: two trends which I sincerely hope will continue as both can only be healthy. One can only wonder at the gnashing of teeth at the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) right now.
Do you think retail will ever go “back to normal” or are we about to see a retail revolution?
Whatever ‘normal’ was! No, of course it can’t. In Hong Kong, for example, we’re seeing many retailers go under. The same thing will replicate itself here – of that I’ve no doubt. And for those that remain, life will be very different. Would you want to try on clothes or shoes that had potentially been worn by someone else? Ironically, this could kill the second-hand/pre-loved market: we can look forward to debates over what temperature is needed to kill the COVID-19 coronavirus in the wash cycle. And store estates will be drastically reduced as more and more activity goes online.
What’s your current working routine?
Answering retail related questions like this!
In terms of the way you work, what do you think the “new normal” will look like?
We will very quickly realise that all that commuting, all those office blocks, all that time sat on the M25, all those hours crushed on trains, was a complete waste of time. Video calling is the new normal and going to work in your pyjamas will be the new pinstripe suit. This will have huge, barely imaginable implications for many industries and sectors of the economy. The oil industry, for example, in the US is currently trying to figure out how and where to store all the excess crude which simply isn’t being consumed any longer.
We will realise that we don’t need to live in the heart of London, Birmingham, Manchester or even Nottingham to be able to work there. We can work from wherever we choose. Bandwidth will become the new oil.
How do you manage the balance between work and home life? Have there been any challenges?
No, I just work. It is my home life! Seriously, taking a walk, often up to 2 hours a day, is important for my own personal wellbeing but I’m lucky. For years, I’ve been used to working from home and besides, social distancing has to be the best thing ever invented for years! After all, who wants their personal space invaded?
What’s been a positive thing about life in lockdown?
Sustainability. Now, when did you last hear that word mentioned? In other words, what we all thought was nigh on impossible has happened over a matter of a few weeks. Incredible! Will we instantly revert to the way things were before? I sincerely hope not. But we eventually will and, when that happens, the realisation that we are destroying the planet will be even more acute. I just hope that Sir David Attenborough is still around to steer us back on track.
How do you unwind?
I’m fortunate of where I live, right on the edge of the Ashdown Forest in Sussex, so getting out and about either by walking or cycling is very easy. And it’s amazing, the places on my doorstep I have discovered just by walking that little bit further.
What are your top 3 lockdown essential non-essentials?
Great question! I’ve spoken and written a lot about non-essentials however, my top 3 essential non-essentials would be:
1. My guitar – which I continue to play very badly
2. A sense of humour, which you need when you play guitar badly
3. My Ferrari – which is my favourite way of getting to Tesco’s
Next week, we’ll be bringing you another top voice from the retail, hospitality and logistics sector.