By Altus Group | January 27, 2020

It has been a torrid start to the new year for the embattled British retail sector with the Centre for Retail Research saying 9,949 jobs have already been lost in the first 3 weeks of 2020 with store closures at Debenhams, GAME, HMV, Arcadia and Mothercare, whilst Asda and Morrisons have also announced plans to cut costs in back office and management roles.

More than 1,200 further jobs were left hanging in the balance with the department store chain Beales and toy retailer Hawkin’s Bazaar entering administration last week.

Large scale store closures have been widely attributed to the huge shift in shopping online. Despite changing consumer habits, owners of retail property are putting their faith in 5G wireless technology as a potential high street saviour a new report released today concludes.

Altus Group’s annual Commercial Real Estate Innovation Report, which surveyed over 400 major property owners and investors from around the world, each with more than £200 million assets under management, found 66% of top British executives saw cashier-less retail as one of the top two beneficial innovations to come with the introduction of 5G wireless technology. Even more British executives, around 77%, saw a similar benefit to automated stock ordering through the increased adoption of these new technologies 5G will bring.

The super fast connectivity of 5G is set to put shoppers at the heart of technological advances as the speed, 20 times faster than 4G, will allow retailers to use both augmented reality and virtual reality to enhance the customer experience whilst improving stock efficiencies and eliminating queuing helping high streets fight back from the onslaught of online shopping.

Whilst the report acknowledges one of the short term impacts of new technology will be further downward pressure on jobs, executives were bullish that 5G, needed to power the latest technological advances, would also lead to job creation.

Scott Morey, an Executive Director at Altus Group, said “5G presents a great opportunity for retailers to further improve the underlying performance of their physical stores by transforming the customer experience and shifting the role of their store personnel towards higher value tasks,” adding “shoppers fundamentally rely on stores during various stages of their shopping journey and 5G has the potential to further improve that interaction.”

The findings provide a more optimistic outlook than forecasts by the Office for National Statistics which predict that 65% of all retail cashiers and check out operator jobs will, in the future, become redundant as will 60% of all staff working in stock control.

Boris Johnson is set to decide later this week whether to allow the use of Chinese Huawei technology in Britain’s new 5G network despite protests from the US Government.

Morey added, “Whilst 5G will be transform the consumer experience, the starting point will be for telecom companies and real estate owners to provide the infrastructure and physical location points so 5G can reach its full potential.”

Notes:

CRR Data: Job losses announced not taking into account new roles created. The Sainsbury’s announcement on job losses was made last year around October, and was included in last year’s totals even though many of those redundancies are most likely to happen this year.

5G & Retail: Devices networked using 5G remove the need to queue to pay at a till. Shoppers simply walk out of the store with their goods, paying automatically. Automated stock ordering reduces instances of ‘out of stock’ notices, making it more likely that goods are available for purchase. Communication between the changing room, floor staff and stock room becomes more immediate. Virtual reality and augmented reality devices provide tailored information as a shopper moves through the store and recognition of shoppers as they enter a store or shopping centre allows them to be informed or guided based on their recent browsing history.

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