Round table: How retail and hospitality can navigate a changing consumer landscape

Guests joined the debate at The Magic Garden in Nottingham

As the retail and hospitality sector has continued to shift following the pandemic, city centres have been forced to adapt to new working practices and changing consumer habits.

This round table event, sponsored by Retail Assist, saw experts discuss how consumers are operating in a cashless and tech-focused market.

CEO and founder of 200 Degrees, Rob Darby, said he was forced to put his expansion plans on hold during the pandemic.

He said: “The plans were put on hold as some locations came back easier than others. Lincoln for example came back well.

“The pandemic made us re-focus on our ‘why’. We looked at how our employer brand is more important than ever alongside retention, as we don’t want to be training people forever.

“I do think though that when you go through difficult events, it brings out the best in you”.

The consumer is at the heart of operations at Baresca, as MD Jon Perkins said: “We now try to make sure that fresh, new and innovative changes are made, whether that is a new menu being added or balancing insights from technology with how to interact better with customers.

“Coming back from the pandemic, it’s now about keeping our head above the parapet and ensuring quality.

“The biggest change we’ve gone through is using innovation to change our culture. If we have a good or a bad review, we’ve not let it impact us, we’ve ensured that we react to show that we care”.

For Alice Carr of Lost City Adventure Golf, customer experience is also high on the agenda, and she revealed how consumer expectations are higher.

“We changed wifi providers to ensure that it was easy to use for customers and wouldn’t crash,” she said.

“We also increased our event budget, so customers were able to have a little taste of us to get them to come back for more.

“The engagement on these events was so high and we could learn that through data capture. We are seeing a lot more people opting into marketing”.

It is clear that there has been a market reset in the region and for Box Property’s Ben Tebbutt, clients have had to be more flexible.

He said: “For properties where a client paid £10m, rent went from £100k a year to £60k. They were happy to keep it empty so a loss wasn’t made but that meant tenants have gone and in turn people have gone.

“If you reset however, start at the bottom, build up and create flexible deals, you can lease the property quickly for short term deals that can lead to longer.

“For example, on Bridlesmith Gate in Nottingham, Sneakerverse initially signed a three to six-month deal and have now signed for five years. It’s really pleasing to see and great to work with a flexible client”.

The retail and hospitality sector has had to be flexible to adapt to consumer behaviour and innovation.

Arpita Anstey of The Island Quarter says she wants to give customers a seamless experience, but they’ll only be taking card payments.

She said: “We want to ensure the Island Quarter is an experience for everyone, so we will only use the right tech.

“This is the benefit of starting new, we can add these things from the beginning. We’ve seen that those with big outdoor spaces did the best coming out of lockdown. There is a demand for having hybrid spaces”.

Kieran Bowden, chief commercial officer of Retail Assist, said: “People don’t pay by cash or even card, it’s all through mobile now. Companies need to understand what is the critical path to trading and that is technology.

“We see companies now taking the till to the customer through cloud based tech on the shop floor or using customers’ technology to shop, for example in M&S you can scan your goods and then go.

“We are seeing smaller operators are more agile at this and can roll out these things a lot faster”.

Other trends felt across the retail sector is the decline of the high street and the difference in the fashion sector.

Managing director of Retail Assist, Kevin Greathead said: “More investment is now going into tools such as price modelling tools for companies to stay competitive.

“Will the high-street ever be the same again – I don’t think so, but fashion companies are looking into how to improve their in-store experiences whilst boosting online trading and make returns easier.”

To find out how your business can grasp these new opportunities, send an enquiry to or call +44 (0)115 904 2777.