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Retail Reflections: A ‘cushy life’ selling gifts – now here comes GDPR!

Alan Monahan writes: If you run a small independent gift shop I’m sure you’ll have some customers who envy what you do. They figure that if you pass the time of day with nice people, selling them pretty things, it’s not a bad way to earn a living.

They don’t know the half of it, do they?

Apart from being price competitive and finding products that will sell through, you then have to make sure that they are ALL delivered to your shop. Then there are unfair business rates; putting up with petty theft, and constantly being told that you must have an online element to your business while also giving customers in-store experiences.

And Joe Public is certainly blissfully unaware of the form-filling and red tape which blights the lives of retailers. And finding the time to fulfil statutory obligations is becoming increasingly difficult for many of you, it seems.

A recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed that our industry is far from ready for the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the run-up to the May 25th deadline.

The EU’s new law applies to all businesses that handle the personal data of EU citizens, so regardless of how Britain’s exit from the European Union unfolds, these new rules will apply for most businesses across all sectors – and there are large fines for non-compliance.

Of retailers and wholesalers questioned by the FSB, just 3% had completed preparations, while 41% had not yet started and 50% had started but not completed. Because the FSB is so concerned that across all businesses 90% of small firms are still not prepared it has launched a ‘BeDataReady’ campaign.

It is stepping up efforts to support them, while continuing to make sure the Government implements the regulation in the fairest way.

Discussing GDPR last year when he worked for IT company Bluesource UK, Tim Walwyn said that if your business handles personal information – applying to anything which can be used to identify someone, e.g. name, location, email address, social media posts, IP address etc – then you’re accountable.

He explained that the reasons for the change are to grant EU citizens more control over their personal data and to unify all the data protection laws across the single market.

‘Over the last 20 years, there have been unprecedented shifts in how consumers use the internet, what they use it for and how they interact with organisations and institutions. The GDPR will better reflect today’s digital environment.’

Walwyn pointed to the rise of online shopping, loyalty schemes, social media and online marketing that have reshaped retail.

‘The information collected through these activities is staggering: most retailers collect data on their existing customers, potential customers and employees.’

The GDPR imposes stricter rules around consent. The days of pre-selected opt-in boxes are over. From May, consent must be captured by active participation. In most cases, this means customers clicking to validate their interest for each of a retailer’s promotions and mailing lists. They must also ensure consumers can withdraw their consent.

As customers become more selective over what they sign up to, mailing lists may decrease in size, and thus direct marketing will be impacted. ‘What is needed is a re-think about how and why people are signing up to your promotions and whether they trust you,’ commented Walwyn.

He said that retailers needed to be more creative to find new ways of increasing their reach and improving engagement with their brand, and believed there would be more of an onus to earn their customers’ consent and trust. ‘You can therefore use this opportunity to build better relationship and become more competitive.’

In the meantime, I would urge retailers who will be affected by the introduction of GDPR, and have done nothing, to heed the words of Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, who said over a year ago: ‘If I could give you just one piece of advice, it would be not to put this off.’

inventor Trevor Baylis

The eleventh hour is here.

Having been entertained by him in the press office at Spring Fair some years ago, I was saddened to hear of the death at the age of 80 of ebullient inventor Trevor Baylis,

Trevor was famous, of course, for his wind-up radio, but always claimed that it made him little money because he didn’t properly protect the product.

A former stuntman who represented Britain in the 100 metres backstroke when he was just 15 years old, Trevor went on to become a well-known after-dinner speaker.

Hopefully, he won’t just be remembered as ‘the wind-up radio man’, but as someone whose numerous gizmos helped enhance the lives of the disabled.

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