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Retail - TCS 2021 Global Leadership Study Key Findings Report


This report asks: 

How retail organizations are planning to balance radical innovation with incremental optimization in these arenas

  • Where they will compete: In a digital world, how they are deciding in which businesses and markets to play (business strategy)
  • What to compete with: How they plan to digitize what they already sell to consumers, as well as new offerings (product/service strategy)
  • How to compete: How they are digitizing the processes by which they create demand for, and supply of, their offerings (operational strategy)
  • How to lead: the culture and talent management strategies they believe they need to compete in a far more digital world (talent management strategy)

These companies came from 17 global industries including retail, from which we had 102 executives take the survey. The average revenue of these retailers is $23.7 billion. The largest proportion of them (44 surveys) had revenue of between $1 billion and $5 billion. However, 10 respondents worked for retailers with revenues of $50 billion or more.

Of the 102 surveys, 45 came from executives at department store and apparel retailers; 36 were from grocery and pharmacy retailers; 9 were from internet retailers; 7 were from mass merchandisers, and 5 were from other retail sectors. More than half of the executives (55%) work at retailers headquartered in North America. The rest were split fairly equally among retailers based in the UK and Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

Retail Leaders

The TCS 2021 Global Leadership survey also compares how two groups of retailers answered our questions: “Leaders” and “Followers.” Leaders were those retailers that had higher-than-average retail sector increases in both revenue and profit between 2015 and 2019. Of the 102 retailers, 37 were Leaders. Followers had lower than average increases on those metrics; 34 retailers were Followers.

This report is an excerpt of the larger study and introduces some of the key findings for retail banking and credit institutions and for investment banking firms.

Essential takeaway

While 56% of top management in all other sectors combined view their companies’ strategy from the lens of the historical boundaries of their particular industry, only 43% of retail executives agreed with that approach. Put another other way, 42% of retail execs are looking at opportunities and threats primarily through a digital ecosystem lens and another 15% equally combine their industry perspective with an ecosystem lens. So compared to retail (which came in at 57%), only 44% of top executives in other industries surveyed said they employ any kind of cross-industry ecosystem framework for their strategic planning (see below).

The differences in ecosystem-thinking among retail Leaders and Followers is even more pronounced. More than three-quarters of the respondents who work for retail Leader firms plan for their futures in the context of cross-industry digital ecosystems; less than a third of the retail Followers’ executives do the same.

How retailers view opportunities in strategic planning exercises



Where are Senior Leaders planning to focus their efforts between now and 2025?


The Global Leadership Study asks: What is more important for the mid-2020s? Explore the 4 Essential Takeaways.

View Key Findings
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