Making Projects Successful in the Retail Sector

The current pandemic has had widespread economic impacts that will endure for many months and beyond. Nowhere have these more rapidly hit than in the UK retail sector. The British Retail Consortium has reported March 2020 as the steepest decline on record as largely all, but food retailers took the brunt of government lockdown measures on their revenues (1).

With a wide range of retail organisations, the impacts are varied and there appear to be 3 main groupings when it comes to retail projects and change:

  1. The winners – Already high in e-Commerce, remote set up and digital and not reliant on physical (Bricks and Mortar) retail stores
  2. The traditionalists – Little e-Commerce and pressure on revenue and cashflow due to store closures
  3. The survivors – Retailers further up the supply chain and with essential products that have been busier than ever, but challenges around supply continuity

Challenges across these groupings for inflight projects have been equally varied and require different actions to optimise change and set up for post pandemic success:


Challenge for the Winners: The whole team is remote – keeping them motivated beyond the first wave and deliver excellence in activities that would likely not have been remote is proving difficult


  • See our running workshops advice (here)
  • Keep the banter up/focus on team culture (here)
  • Keep the team motivated with regular check-ins and understanding of personal circumstances and motivators.
  • Consider using tools based on your team’s specific dynamics to shape interventions based on personal preferences. (2)


Challenge for the Traditionalists: Gaps in revenue and sales through store closures with only limited e-Commerce uptake and increased focus on cutting cost and BAU problems, mothballing projects and initiatives.


  • Re-plan projects and find ways to improve delivery with extra resources freed up due to business slow down – mobilise and onboard these people and give them specific scope of activities that best utilise their skills
  • Set up governance for ecommerce change delivery with a focus on short term wins and a medium-term strategy that can be implemented. Adopt a light approach but ensure that governance, planning and scoping of requirements are still done despite remote working


Challenge for the Survivors: Focus has shifted to resolving supply chain issues for essential products, resulting in other projects being delayed or put on hold, when leadership are keen to push forward with these projects and turn this into a competitive advantage.


  • Ensure project business continuity plans are in place and the team are briefed
  • Re-plan work to tick of some items not due to start later so there is a higher degree of flexibility and contingency built in
  • Increase communications across the team and re-visit the regularity or governance sessions and processes for approving changes to minimise potential delays

Some commentators say that these are exceptional times, but this is here, and this represents the new market in retail for most organisations. Strong project and change delivery can still be achieved.

Rapid adaptability and flexibility will differentiate the winners from the losers in this period. The best project managers are still able to deliver and to keep projects moving ahead to create value.

Indeed, our advice at Nine Feet Tall is to use this opportunity to re-tune your retail business to come back stronger in a changed (retail) world. Re-tuning your project approaches will help you achieve this in your organisation.

For a conversation now about your retail projects please contact and we will set up a free consultation with a member of our team.


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