Has the word ‘proximity’ cropped up in your 2022 planning meetings yet?  Thought so. But what does retail’s favourite new buzzword actually mean? 

In the dictionary, it’s nearness in space, time or relationship – in other words, the things that are close, nearby and on hand.  For retailers, it means closing the gap between the people in your most important business relationships: customers and staff, staff and bosses at HQ and ultimately between consumers and your brand.


All three are linked, and there’s a good reason why they have soared to the top of retail’s list of priorities this year. Having been abruptly cut off from their usual shopping destinations during lockdown, shoppers have a new-found love of local. They have come to appreciate the value of stores that ‘get’ them and their needs, offering personal service, local savvy and good old fashioned community spirit. And it’s a trend that is lingering long past the pandemic. 

Retail CEOs are also viewing local business relationships through a new lens. They saw their store teams deliver brilliantly for customers during Covid, with the kind of empathy and compassion that could never come from HQ. These shop floor staff shone, not just as brave store operatives, but as champions of their customers and brand in equal measure. It was powerful stuff, and the penny is now dropping that this is how businesses can transform the performance of the whole organisation, one store at a time.

 So why go back to the old ways?

As a business working at retail’s frontline with thousands of stores every day, we know that there’s a revolution in customer service coming, from the grass roots up. The onus is now on businesses to stay on the path to staff empowerment, so that local teams can keep up the good CX work. But how? 

The best place to start is by closing the most important gap of the three: the one between frontline staff and head office. Customers don’t want to shop in their local branch and then be fobbed off to centralised departments whenever they have an enquiry, problem or question. ‘We’ll get back to you in three working days’ just won’t cut it. 

They want to keep dealing with staff who know them, understand their needs and can use instant, on-the-spot initiative to make their shopping experience better. 

But retailers, don’t just pay lip service to building greater proximity between HQ and the frontline. Sure, it might seem easier in the short term to stick with a control and command CX structure, with a few localised initiatives on the side. But in today’s retail environment, this approach will fail. 

Businesses need to make sure that local managers are properly in the loop when it comes to customer data and insights, with a route to staff empowerment through tools, technology and training. HQ should acknowledge that frontline teams are the true experts when it comes to their own customers, and their skills, motivation and engagement should be the company’s number one priority.

As the experience of lockdown shows, given the chance to influence and own their customer relationships, local staff shine – and shoppers are all the better for it. So flip the model. Devolve more power to store managers. And let store staff get on with nurturing the close, loyal, local business relationships that will transform the performance of your brand. And always make sure you ‘mind the gap’. The future success of your business depends on it. 

To find out more, please join Critizr’s latest webinar: 

Mind the Gap: Why your store staff might have all the answers to your retail challenges


📅 Date: 25th November
Time: 3pm GMT
👤 Hosted by: Peter Cross – Ex. John Lewis, CX Director

In this exclusive webinar, consumer expert and former John Lewis Customer Experience Director, Peter Cross, alongside Jo Causon, CEO of Institute of Customer Service, will discuss why store teams are retailers’ new secret weapon.

In this webinar you will:

  1. Discover issues that are widening the gap between retail store teams and Head Office
  2. Learn how to bridge these gaps to drive real business value
  3. How a retailer successfully closed these gaps and how you can too