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22 October 2018
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This month’s Think Tank discussion looks at current facilities management priorities in one specific but crucial sector – retail. What are the issues affecting the way FMs deliver service in this vital and ever-changing environment?

Join the Think Tank to have your opinion reflected here — editorial@fm-world.co.uk

Illustration: Ikon

13 March 2017 | FM World team


Customer retention is the challenge

With customers watching spend, ever-increasing competition in the sector, and the online trend, the customer retention challenge is a far higher priority than ever before. Retail customer retention strategies must look at how to keep people coming back on a daily basis. Our FM teams help through a strong focus on service excellence and the whole customer experience. Our staff no longer just keep the facilities clean and safe, but add value by performing a customer-facing role. 

They must be equipped to provide customers with a range of general and local transport information. Cleaning, security and maintenance staff all receive additional bespoke customer service training. And, while we still carry out FM causing the minimum disruption, our staff aim to stand out in a crowd so that people recognise that they can come to them for help. Uniforms are made with client logos and wording that shouts ‘happy to help’ – from supporting a lost child to helping an elderly person. 

New chemicals and cleaning equipment help to deliver a cost-effective, safe and sustainable service, and body cameras and CCTV help to provide a discreet security service. 

Greg O’Brien, operations director, AM Services Group

Mark Rycraft

Back to basics to fight online allure

The retail environment is extremely challenging for high street and shopping centre retailers not just because of the advancement and change in technology, but because of the consumers’ change in priorities. Their confidence in a brand and their disposable income means that retailers and shopping centres need to go back to basics when it comes to customer service. Treating our customers how they want to be treated rather than how we think they need to be treated. For example, we have recently converted a vacant unit into a free playroom for customers with young families. Working alongside our tenants to decorate and furnish the play area, we have created a community space for those who just want some time out with their children.

The shift from customer spend from a high street to online directly affects the profitability of the high street store. More than ever, occupational costs are being interrogated. The change in rateable values may add further challenges and a significant change in the profitability and subsequent success of a business. The onus is on shopping centre management to find innovative ways to reduce ongoing operational costs. Initially, this may incur extensive investment with a payback period of a number of years. For example, the installation of LED lighting and photovoltaic systems can make a significant difference longer term, but do need initial capital investment. However, there are also immediate benefits in terms of sustainability, energy reduction, and PR value.

We need to understand our retailers to be able to deliver what they need to be successful. Regular interactions with retailers to understand their own retail trends and needs are important. I speak to my retailers regularly and most of them will share their turnover and customer footfall and spend with me. This provides me with an overall picture of the centre’s success and its ability to sustain their business, providing me with the opportunity to make improvements.

Mark Rycraft, centre manager, Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool


Sean Fisher

Putting the customer experience first

As with every industry, if you don’t keep up with the times, you get left behind. With retail, this is an ever-present challenge; especially as sales drop if you don’t keep adjusting and moving with the climate. The retail market is undergoing a massive change at the moment, thanks to internet shopping; people can do their weekly food shop on an app, buy their clothes online and of course, download their music in the palm of their hands. Because of this, customer experience inside the store is being placed on a pedestal.


“There has been a marked difference in the way FMs on the ground and in the stores treat customers. Focusing on touchpoints such as fitting rooms and security guards at the front of the store will put you in good stead compared with your competitors. Cutbacks in staff numbers and services such as cleaning shouldn’t take away from your ability to make a customer’s experience exceptional, in turn driving those all-important sales..

Sean Fisher, managing director retail, Servest


Guy Thorstensen

Doing more for less in retail FM

As an FM provider, you can you can do more for less by reducing operational waste and streamlining your delivery. The benefits are exponential once you work with your vendors/suppliers to come up with innovative solutions. 

Time after time, we meet with providers who are simply using their vendors as a source of materials. Too many vendors are not proactive in coming up with solutions to reduce costs and add value for FM providers. 

When you consider that up to 90 per cent of FM costs are in labour, surely streamlined delivery methods, better planning of jobs and sharing knowledge with vendors will reduce costs dramatically more than going out to tender to reduce cost per part on materials. The typical FM provider in the retail sector will often be creating waste in travelling too much; ordering/receiving wrong materials; receiving damaged materials; waiting for or collecting materials; deploying engineers with the wrong skill sets; not being able to complete the job; and doing more than necessary.

Working constructively with proactive vendors to streamline service delivery will improve service and reduce costs every time. The results of this are typically better communication, reduced costs, happier clients and faster reliable service delivery. The simplyonsite distribution system from RLT Onsite has been designed to solve the problem of lighting maintenance in the retail sector and is hugely successful. It’s not rocket science, just common sense. You do more, for less.

Guy Thorstensen, business development, RLT Group