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Property Sector Charter Council to launch upskill programme for struggling retail sector

Portia Tau-Sekati, CEO of the PSCC.
Portia Tau-Sekati, CEO of the PSCC.

Digital transformation in the retail sector has been fast approaching and it has been accelerated during Covid-19 which has highlighted the need for retailers to operate and to serve consumers differently.

The emerging themes for retailers indicate that the global pandemic will drive significant changes in customer experience, supply chains, category management, health and hygiene and employee engagement.

The retail and consumer products trends analysis by Deloitte’s InSightIQ has identified four disruptive forces: changing consumer preferences, advanced technology, an overflow of economic pressures for consumers and suppliers, and re-shifting market forces.

With rapid and urgent transformation required, the Property Sector Charter Council (PSCC) will introduce a collaborative industry-wide skills development programme that will leverage skills development spend to create an impactful and sustainable effect on the property and retail sector.

In its initial phase, the aim of the programme will be to target independent retailers who need to take quick action to ensure economic survival and recovery while keeping their businesses sustainable in the long term.

The programme will align skills development initiatives across retail property owners, initially independent retailers and service providers who fit into different SETAs” comments Portia Tau-Sekati, CEO at the PSCC. “The skills development initiative will be rolled out in April 2021 via a digital platform and will improve employee engagement across retail properties (malls and shopping centres). We also want to combine insights on employee behaviour to better understand and address industry challenges.”

While the big picture benefit is to re-energise the economy, the parties involved will see multiple benefits to this sector-wide programme. The PSCC will support the transformation mandate for the sector and at the same time, retailers will see improved customer experience, which ultimately leads to increased sales. Various linked SETAs will fulfil their strategic sector skills plan mandate by funding this skills development programme through special projects grants.

Independent retailers generally draw shoppers into retail spaces with their unique products and services and the reality is that they pay the highest rental per square meter. These non-essential retailer specialists have had to bear the brunt of the initial lockdown phase, where they could not trade. For example, numerous non-essential specialist retailers have called for lifting and adjusting rental fees to retain their livelihoods. In contrast, major retailers who faced financial problems before the pandemic hit received support through business rescue.

The programme will offer digital solutions which respond to e-commerce, making it mutually beneficial for property owners to get on board with this initiative, which provides convenient access to a skills development framework that drives real value for their business. When there are unified quality customer service and customer experience across all retailers, it guarantees revenue growth.

Getting involved in the Retail Upskill programme is simple. It requires property owners to submit a Workplace Skills Plan (WSP) and Annual Training Report (ATR) to be compliant with their respective SETA and which qualifies them to access training grants. Retailers, in turn, can access the training programmes by attending awareness and education sessions on Skills Development Levy and the advantages of the levy-paying, hosted by your property owner. They must complete participation agreements and provide information for training needs analysis and once the WSP is approved, they are well on their way to accessing their training.

We are hoping to reach an agreement with participating SETAs where we will submit reports on the retail programme on behalf of the landlords (property owners)” says Portia.

This collaborative approach across industries that support the retail sector will significantly impact maximising the benefit of skills development spend by working with other stakeholders and addressing the skills gap through specialist training for retail client environments.

The PSCC’s support of the sectoral response to these changes will coordinate SETA grants and special projects to advance employee engagement across retail properties. A digital platform for learning will ultimately de-risk smaller retailers.

This initiative will prove how agility in a turbulent environment and responsiveness to the current needs; to create jobs, upskill and reskill and transform the business through economic stimulation, will in the long-term transform and provide a quality standard of skilled workforce in the retail space.