Riviera Produce robot

Automation will be good for society in future as people move towards jobs that better deploy their human potential

Facing up to job losses

Sir, We agree the rise of automation will result in short-term job losses but that over time there will be increased productivity and new job creation (‘Robots in the workforce’, 11 August). In the long term, this will be good for society as people move towards jobs that better deploy their human potential.

However, in the short term there will be a significant negative economic impact. Retraining will be hard and replacement jobs scarce.

We expect retail headcount to plummet by up to a million in the coming decade, so government must develop retraining schemes and incentives to ensure the UK workforce remains in the job market, and retailers must automate to remain competitive on an international level.

Nick Harrison, global retail practice co-leader, Oliver Wyman

Emergent categories

Sir, I was interested to read about the convergence of trends within personal care and healthy eating (thegrocer.co.uk, 3 January). More and more brands are responding to increasing demand for products which offer integrated health and wellness solutions - and it’s a trend that will develop further. How about a haircare range that nourishes your hair but also enriches your mind through the use of essential oils? Or perhaps a shower gel containing caffeine you can also drink to fight fatigue?

As categories merge and emerge, the challenge for manufacturers will be to create brands, visual identities and packaging that clearly communicates what these new products are and how they can improve lives. Watch this space!

Laurie Offer, marketing & development director, Cowan London

Farmers need support

Sir, The recent Eat-Lancet report has made an important contribution to the debate on what constitutes a healthy, sustainable diet (thegrocer.co.uk, 17 January). The Soil Association has long advocated a move towards “less but better” meat - current levels of consumption are not sustainable.

But animals, particularly livestock, still have an important role to play in sustainable farming and diets, now and in the future. It’s crucial the conversation moves on from global recommendations to local realities - we must make sure UK farmers get the support they need to make this transition.

Joanna Lewis, policy director, Soil Association

Building loyalty

Sir, This year’s Christmas trading figures have shown just how much consumer loyalty has changed. Despite M&S’s results being worse than expected, the public still holds the brand in high regard.

Our recent Brand Loyalty Index crowned the store as the most popular supermarket for the second year running. However, with Tesco and Aldi taking second and third spots, there’s evidence strong online portals and logistics have given discount stores a bigger market share. A strong reputation is not enough any more.

Even though John Lewis and Partners had increased sales this Christmas, the uncertainty over staff bonuses does hint at a potential downturn. From a loyalty point of view, the supermarket arm was also affected - out of the ten supermarkets listed, Waitrose fell from fifth to ninth.

Brands can’t rely upon a strong identity, they need to build upon this customer loyalty with improved online experiences and promotions or risk falling behind.

Chris Baldwin, director of consumer promotions and loyalty, Sodexo Engage