As we look back on 2014, it seems that retailers across the country are still struggling to maintain their IT provision and this is continuing to impact sales. One source claims that as much as 50% of IT server downtime is caused by ageing equipment, poor IT security and badly deployed patches. It has also been estimated that downtime in the UK is costing retailers on average £2 billion a year and affecting 14 business hours per week.

In fact, the UK is the worst offender in Europe for IT downtime which accounts for 27 hours per year, affecting 39% of sales. The resulting loss of revenue is a staggering £138,000 per hour across UK SMEs or £350,000 for larger retailers. The downtime caused by poor support when there is an IT problem in store has a direct impact on profitability and performance and as a result, many are being forced to review their current provision as they enter 2015.

With retailers continuing to compete for every pound, retailers are now placing an even greater emphasis on maintaining the in store customer experience as the attraction of the internet and mobile shopping continues to pull valuable business away from the high street.

Retail suffers the most when hit with downtime. Employees are unable to process transactions and customers who are unable to complete purchases are more likely to shop elsewhere. Moreover, a survey sponsored by CA Technologies found that 44% respondents who worked in retail said that IT downtime negatively affects staff morale, which in turn will affect the overall customer experience.

I have been observing the retail landscape for over two decades and I am not surprised that quality of service is now becoming a more important consideration than the cost. Many of the retailers I have spoken to this year have expressed concern with their current service contracts, citing poor quality service rather than costs as their reason for searching for a new supplier.

IT is one of the biggest concerns for retail businesses. They simply cannot afford to have any downtime. It not only directly affects the amount or type of sales the store is able to process, but can also negatively impact on staff and customers. Especially at this time of year, as even the slighted inconvenience could cause already stressed customers to simply take their business to a competitor. When assessing the risk-rewards of a professional, reliable support contact, retailers are certainly realising that it is better to be safe than sorry.