Retail sector most vulnerable to disruption – AlixPartners report

17th April 2024 | Jack Oliver

Global retail is the most vulnerable to disruption amongst industry sectors in 2024, according to a new report from global consulting firm AlixPartners.

Now in its fifth year, AlixPartners’ Disruptive Index surveys 3,000 of leading C-suite executives worldwide, collecting responses across ten different industry sectors.

Over 50% of respondents from the retail sector anticipated significant structural changes to their business model this year – the highest of all the surveyed industries. This exposure to disruption is highlighted in the insecurity of retail business leaders, with 38% admitting to fears over losing their jobs as a direct consequence of industry disruption.

These fears also extended to their workforce, according to the study, with over half of top retail executives revealing that their employees’ skillsets are at risk of obsolescence and are not aligned to the changes currently impacting their businesses.

David Bassuk, global leader of the retail practice at AlixPartners, said: “Our latest findings underscore the critical need for retailers to proactively address challenges posed by disruptive forces in the industry. As the retail landscape rapidly evolves, businesses must remain agile and innovative to stay competitive and resilient.”

Set to be published at the World Retail Congress, which is being hosted from 16-18 April in Paris, AlixPartners’ “Disrupt or Be Disrupted: Six trends reshaping retail” report explores trends such as:

  1. Discount disruptors: the next generation of discounters 
  2. Real-time retail: navigating the now economy
  3. Brand consolidation: the rise of multi-brand platform models 
  4. Circular retail: is profitability the bottom line?
  5. From retailer to media owner: harnessing value from digital channels
  6. Social shopping and D2C innovation: keeping up with the influencers

Matt Clark, head of EMEA in AlixPartners’s retail practice, said: “The digital revolution, consumer behaviour change, geopolitical tensions economic pressures, and the lingering impact of the pandemic are transforming the retail landscape globally. Our research not only analyses the biggest challenges facing the industry, but also highlights the greatest opportunities. For industry innovators, and those willing to adapt and learn, the future of retail looks promising.”

According to the report, whilst 70% of retail executives hold growth expectations for the industry overall in the next 12 months, nearly half (49%) report that technological change is happening at a rate their company cannot keep up with. Meanwhile, over half say existing employees’ skills are rapidly becoming obsolete, and that new employees entering the workforce do not have the skills to succeed.

Ian McGarrigle, chair of World Retail Congress, added: “Timed to coincide with World Retail Congress 2024, our hope is that this report will spark discussions about the changing face of retail. With industry leaders gathering, our goal is to facilitate meaningful conversations that drive innovation and shape the future of our industry’s landscape.”


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