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5 Ways Retailers Are Helping Staff through the Cost-of-Living Crisis

…and 5 ways they’re helping shoppers too.

We know what you’re thinking: just five? It’s a fair point. Since the cost-of-living crisis became this country’s most unwelcome thing since the last unwelcome thing, retailers have done what they always do. They’ve stepped up and made a difference in the lives of staff and customers in a huge variety of ways, some of them surprising, some heart-warming, and all of them very, very welcome.

Out of the many stories we could have chosen, here are the examples that caught our eye of retailers being just a little bit brilliant:

Retailers supporting staff: Care packages at River Island

It’s one thing for a company to support its people. There’s something even more impressive about an individual doing it. So hats off to River Island founder Bernard Lewis, who recently told staff:

“Since starting River Island nearly 70 years ago, I have never known a time when the cost of living has risen so dramatically so quickly and caused so much distress. We are committed to helping all of you who make this business what it is.”

Lewis has funded care packages of food basics and personal care essentials available to all but the retailer’s most senior staff, bolstering a wider support package which includes hardship grants, a financial wellbeing programme and two support payments.

Retailers supporting customers: Iceland’s cost-of-living workshops

The supermarket’s ‘Shop Smart, Cook Savvy’ project has seen it partner with energy firm Utilita to deliver free workshops across the UK designed to help budgets stretch further. In addition, the retailer has vowed to add the cheapest cooking methods to its product packaging. There’s also a new range of value essentials, and there are additional discounts for pensioners, including an extra 10% off for those over their 60s on Tuesdays.

Retailers supporting staff: Ikea gives staff an extra month’s pay

‘No questions asked’ loans of up to £1,000. Travel season ticket discounts. A doubling of staff discounts from 10% to 30%. But perhaps the most eye-catching all of Ikea’s measures designed to support staff over the holiday season Ikea’s measures designed to support staff over the holiday season is an extra month’s pay as a Christmas bonus. It’s a package worth a total of £12 million.

Retailers supporting customers: Very launches Everyday collection

Very’s a new range of fashion and homeware has been specifically developed to help customers with the cost of living. 700+ products in the Everyday range cost an average of 20% less than Very’s own V by Very range. 85% of items cost under £30 and the price focus doesn’t come at the expense of sustainability.

Robbie Feather, retail managing director at The Very Group, told Internet Retailing: “As the cost of living continues to rise, we know the value for money matters more than ever to our customers. That’s why we plan to grow the Everyday collection, adding hundreds more lines of great quality fashion and home products at affordable prices over the next few months.”

Retailers supporting staff: John Lewis forgoes profit

The John Lewis Partnership has expanded its workforce with around 10,000 temporary workers across John Lewis, Waitrose and its distribution network to help it respond to seasonal demand. Throughout the Christmas trading season, they and all existing staff are enjoying free meals while at work.

That’s just one element in a much wider package of support including one-off payments and a 4% increase in entry-level pay. As The Herald reports, a £99 million half-year loss became a strategic choice, as the retailer chose to “’ forgo’ profit to help staff, customers and suppliers through the cost of living crisis.”

Retailers supporting customers: Sainsbury’s invests additional £50m in keeping down the cost of Christmas

The supermarket has already spent £65m during 2022 helping customers with the cost-of-living crisis. Now, it’s announced additional help over the Christmas period which will cut the cost of a Christmas roast to £4 per head (cheaper than last year) and bring its total two-year spend on cost reduction to an enormous £550m.

As Retail Insight Network Retail Insight Network reported, Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said: “We are accelerating our commitment to being the best value, investing a further £50m in lowering prices and doing everything we can to fight inflation and help our customers enjoy celebrating this year.”

Retailers supporting staff: M&S increases staff pay. Twice.

M&S had already upped staff pay once during 2022 (taking its minimum wage to £10ph in April) as part of a range of support measures, but the ongoing challenges faced by staff saw it conduct its first-ever autumn pay review when it upped rates again. As The Guardian reported, the new £10.20 per hr minimum gave “£100 extra a month to a full-time customer assistant compared with October last year.”

Retailers supporting customers: Lidl highlights food that’s ‘Good to Give’

Food banks need more donations than ever right now, but they really want donations with a shelf life long enough to make a difference. Earlier in 2022, Lidl introduced an industry-first Trustmark across its shelves indicating foods that combined nutritional value with a long shelf life. You’ll see the mark on foods such as brown rice, lentils and canned fruit.

Lidl GB chief executive Ryan McDonnell told Retail Gazette: “We’ve been listening to feedback from our charity partners on how we can best support them at this time. Through these conversations, it became clear we can play a leading role in helping those relying on food banks to maintain a more nutritious, balanced diet by encouraging our customers to donate a little differently.”

Retailers supporting staff: Halfords recruits retirees

Across the UK, a significant number of people would never have retired had they known the level of financial crunch waiting around the corner. So in addition to a wider range of support measures for staff and customers, it’s good to see Halfords launching a recruitment exercise to find 1,000 new automotive technicians which, chief executive Graham Stapleton told The Guardian, it hopes to fill by attracting retirees back to the workforce.

Retailers supporting customers: Superdrug supports Beauty Banks

According to a recent Superdrug survey, and as reported in The Retail Bulletin, 84% of people said that the current cost of living has altered how they feel about Christmas this year with many consciously changing their shopping habits in order to spend less.

The tougher things get, the harder it becomes to afford even basic hygiene and beauty products. That is why Superdrug and its long-term charity partner Beauty Banks have teamed up on a project that enables shoppers to donate gifts of shower gels, shampoos, sanitary products, shaving equipment and nappies.

And to give the project a kickstart, Superdrug is donating £5,000 worth of products too.

The examples above are just a small sample of the initiatives making a difference this year, but they paint a powerful picture of an industry that, despite challenging times, is stepping up in countless ways.

We’re proud to be a (small) part of it.

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