The retail industry is undergoing a huge change. Some call it the retail apocalypse. Personally, I think that is a bit strong. However it is definitely the time for retail transformation. To make that transformation, it is critical that retailers manage and deliver change projects. Project management in retail is fast. But, successful retail projects can deliver huge benefits, both increased sales, reduced costs and more. Plus, successfully managing retail projects allow your business to develop a competitive advantage.

In this article, you’ll discover the hottest trends which are happening in project management in retail:

Change only happens if work gets done (retail project management trend 1)

Retail transformation benefits will only be achieved when retail projects are delivered. Change only happens if the project work gets done and decisions get made. I appreciate that perhaps this seems blatantly obvious! And it is. However, there are too many retail projects that are “all talk, no action”. Work does not get done. In turn, the change is never realised and benefits never earned.

So, you must firstly focus on getting the project work done. Of course, one of the best ways of getting work done is to use tried and tested project management methods. These should promote a pragmatic and effective way of making change.

Essentially, effective retail project management is the key to making that change actually happen. And that is true now more than ever.

Each project must be valuable and relevant (retail project management trend 2)

As hinted at earlier, many retailers and consumer facing businesses are on a knife edge right now. The project that a retailer undertakes must be essential. But to be essential, each project must be valuable or relevant. Hopefully, you’ll be able to realise benefits immediately or in the relative short term. However, it may be that it enables or underpins future change. But, this future change must deliver great benefits for the organisation and customers.

As a project manager, you must deliver projects which are valuable and beneficial for the company. Plus, you must deliver projects which are relevant for the overall company’s goals and strategy.

Run high profiles tests which cannot fail (retail project management trend 3)

High profile tests are becoming more frequent. Naturally, transformation attracts attention. In turn, this attention builds expectation. The expectation among the press and the public is that the trial will not fail.

Think Amazon Go – the store with no checkouts where you can just walk out with your shopping. Or Walmart’s robot trials – where robots patrol the aisles looking for out of stocks.

Driverless car test are also a good example of high profile tests. Naturally, the safety aspect means that the stakes are high for driverless cars. However, this is a massive transformation. And that transformation attracts attention. In turn, this attention builds expectation. So when the expectation is missed and unfortunately an accident happens, the world takes notice. ‘Nay sayers’ and critics jump on every single mistake. In turn, change gets harder to land.

So, if you’re project is leading to a high profile test or trial, you must do your homework. You must have effective risk management techniques in place. It’s essential that you successfully execute your trials and tests.

After all – even if your project is not as transformational as driverless cars – make no mistake, the world is watching and waiting to see what happens!

Be lean AND agile AND predictable (retail project management trend 4)

Lean and agile are perhaps two of the overall buzz words in the whole of project management. So, they’re also relevant for retail projects too.

  • Lean or Lean Six Sigma is a project management methodology that looks to improve processes. Find out more about Lean Six Sigma .
  • Meanwhile, Agile is the concept that you remain flexible with the requirements and develop your deliverables as you go. Read more about Agile.

You should look to run projects that have elements of lean and agile. By doing this, you’ll build in the simplicity from lean and the flexibility from agile. However, you also need predictability for your shareholders!

The bottom line: Effective project management in retail is critical

By adopting these trends and taking advantage of what’s going on, you’ll bring the best chance of successful transformation to your retail business. If you’re managing projects in an adverse business environment, it’s absolutely critical for you to manage successful projects. It’s critical that you deliver successful transformation and that you’re up for the challenge. Basically, you must rise to the challenge and you must learn to be a great retail project manager.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy listening to my podcast the Retail Transformation Show. You can get it on your normal podcast app or at

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author, Oliver Banks

Oliver Banks is an expert retail project and programme manager. He originally managed projects in the technology industry before shifting to deliver retail improvement and transformation. He is now an independent consultant, passionate about helping retailers to deliver projects to improve stores, distribution and head office operations.


project management expert Oliver Banks

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