Why the role of FM is so important in the survival of bricks and mortar retail

It’s no surprise to hear the retail sector is in a state of transformation. Headline-hitting news about the demise of the high-street and the disappearance of so many well-kno


It’s no surprise to hear the retail sector is in a state of transformation. Headline-hitting news about the demise of the high-street and the disappearance of so many well-known brand names in recent years tells us all we need to know about how important change is to this industry. To not evolve and to ignore customer sentiment is having devastating consequences and, critically, this is why the role of facilities management is so important.

Customer experience as we know it today is a relatively new concept in retail; as is omni-channel – the ability to create a unique experience across all of a brand’s available channels. This is important because it is now customers, not senior executives, who are dictating what’s important in retail. Customers want more than just a transactional interaction, whether they are browsing online or purchasing instore, and it is this desire that is revolutionising the shopping experience. 

Ben Tiffany from Sigma, a business that specialises in retail space transformation and consolidation, reflects, “In this new realm of retailing, the hygiene factors matter within your physical store portfolio. From ambient lighting and state of the art sound systems, to ease of access, layout and even the temperature of your store, it all matters to savvy shoppers and can be the deciding factor between one brand and its competitor.”

Facilities Managers in retail have a broader role than ever before, taking in everything from traditional services such as heating, electrics and the physical build of a store, right through to security, cleaning and even the continuous availability and in-store wi-fi! But in reality, it’s even more complex than this, as any Facilities Manager will tell you.

With the powerful combination of new technology and a shift towards more sustainable practices, now more than ever is the time for Facilities Manager’s to show that their role is as strategic as it is tactical. 

Paramount, of course is the need to keep each and every store within a brand’s portfolio up and running and this is no more essential that in the food sector. Systems and processes must be implemented and adhered to so that stock quality is maintained and in supermarkets and other food retailers, the reliability of basics such as refrigerators that work, power that is always on and back-up that kicks in when it should do are all absolute essentials. Where there is an issue, today’s Facilities Manager must have technology in place to help identify the source of the problem and have access to the resources needed to fix it before it becomes a detriment to customer experience.

It cannot be ignored, however, that cost is an ongoing issue and barrier to truly effective facilities management. In retail, many brands are dealing with ageing infrastructure and legacy systems that haven’t been upgraded or replaced in too long.  Coupled with the relentless challenges of rising energy and service costs, it is up to Facilities Managers to show how they can make a difference to help combat shrinking margins.

Sigma’s Ben adds, “Energy is a great example as there are some sophisticated solutions to help forecast and predict energy requirements. Armed with such rich data and with the array of solutions now available, Facilities Managers are able to deliver much more bespoke and cost-effective energy contracts into their store portfolio, meaning greater cost-efficiencies.”

Also high on the business agenda is sustainability which is another non-traditional area where facilities management can add to the results. From reducing energy and water usage through to influencing the materials used and waste processes implemented for new build or refurbished stores, there are many areas where the knowledge and expertise of the facilities management professional can add to not just the bottom line, but also brand reputation which in turn, enhances the overall customer experience.

Technology has a significant role to plan in the management of a physical store portfolio. There are some amazing technologies coming into the market that shifts the focus from reactive management into a space that is much more planned and proactive. Building energy Management Systems (BeMS) are now all encompassing and can make the integration of new lighting, heating and security systems seamless, whether in a new build or retrofitting into older store stock.

These systems also come loaded with Business Intelligence reporting capability, meaning that Facilities Managers have more data than ever before at their fingertips to not only retrospectively report on performance but also to get ahead of it, predicting where investment is needed and able to articulate based on evidence the business case for doing so. This supports the more strategic capability that the profession can bring, complimenting work in procurement and finance as well as customer experience – far more than the outdated notion of the person responsible for leaking toilets and keeping the photocopier working.

“As experts at transforming commercial space, we understand the pivotal role of the Facilities Manager. These professionals are key to making sure that we are proposing solutions that are not only fit for purpose, but also fit for the future whether a brand has large flagship stores or smaller, local operations. It’s the facilities manager who will be left making sure these systems and solutions drive the benefits expected into the future, so it’s right that they’re factored into consideration from the very beginning”, adds Sigma’s Ben

Facilities Management in retail is a complex role due to the breadth and multi-faceted nature of the work involved. However, when retail leaders are educated to fully understand the contribution that this profession can bring, the true power of the bricks and mortar shopping experience can really be brought to life. After all, who else is going to keep the wi-fi switched on?

With over 20 years’ experience of transforming commercial space, Sigma provide a true end-to-end service; from fixtures and GNFR consolidation, to construction, projects and M&E. 



Why the role of FM is so important in the survival of bricks and mortar retail