Next Plc Company’s Technology & Business Environment

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Executive Summary

This paper deals with the organization of Next PLC. Next PLC is a British multinational apparel, footwear, and home furnishings retailer headquartered in Enderby, England. Next PLC has three main sales channels: the Next Directory online directory is gaining popularity; Next Retail, with stores in the UK; Next International, with worldwide sales; and some other businesses, which design and sell their own branded fashion products through all sale channels of the company. This study aims to explore the role of technology and social responsibility in the industry of a given company.

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Introduction

Today, technological progress is developing with lightning speed. What was relevant 20 years ago is now hopelessly outdated. Success in economics and business often directly depends on how well the organization keeps up with innovations. Here, it is essential not only to pursue the achievements of science and technology blindly but also to competent integration, regulation of redistribution of resources, and financing of premature depreciation. The development of Internet technologies and the transition of a large percentage of sales online is one of the leading and pressing issues of today’s companies. The global pandemic has only accelerated the development of this area of the economy and forced companies to work in this direction. Moreover, social responsibility increases with capacity development.

Analysis

Innovations and Technology

This organization has always been one of the leaders in offline sales, as its stores are located not only in the United Kingdom but in all parts of the world. The growth in in-store sales continued until 2018, after which there was a sharp jump in online sales, and for the first time in the company’s history, these sales exceeded the percentage of in-store sales (Next PLC, 2020). Since this was triggered for the most part by the worldwide pandemic due to the spread of the coronavirus, the company must be given credit – it quickly adapted to the new conditions.

It is worth noting that the disruptive business models associated with most users going online will hit retail stores hard. It is explained by the fact that users spend more time on the Internet, watching the birth of online brands. Furthermore, preference-based contextual suggestions make it much easier for users to make choices by presenting the essentials on the device screen. Demand forecasting, and product development with artificial intelligence, on the other hand, helps manufacturers (Byoungho and Daeun, 2020). Big data collection, statistics, analysis, and pattern discovery software provide a vast field for analytics and sales improvement. Thus, everyone, except retail stores, benefits from going online.

Next PLC has always kept pace with technology. He entered the online store back in 1999, carried out deliveries since 2000, and is investing in mobile development now. These activities laid a solid foundation that allowed not only to stay afloat during difficult situations but also to increase income. Next remains at the forefront of emerging retail trends despite various political and global events. Continuous investments in digital delivery, marketing, consumer lending, international expansion, LABEL, Lipsey, and supply chain development keep Next’s competitors constantly catching up (Thompson and McLarney, 2017).

Of course, one of the most important factors is the quality and cost of the product for the end-user. Next PLC clothing is often called high-quality and inexpensive, so the reason for success lies not only in the development of technology.

However, one should not forget about the apparent disadvantages of online sales of clothing and footwear in the inability to try on the product. Standardized sizes very often differ from brand to brand, which is why users are very much appreciated by stores that provide the opportunity to try on when receiving an order or give time to return or exchange goods. Moreover, the problem worsened in 2016, when the percentage of returns to stores increased (Szymański, 2018). The solution to this problem lies in improving the quality control of the store’s goods and enabling the consumer to exchange or return these goods.

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Next PLC does not ignore most modern technologies. The organization has pioneered the move to online sales and clothing delivery and several others as well. For example, RFID systems, designed to protect items from theft, were among the first to be used in British Next stores (Jin and Shin, 2020). The introduction of e-commerce had a significant impact, however, as well as the entire business industry of retailers (Pederzoli, 2016). Finally, social media data mining and expert recommendation systems kept pace with the times.

One of the essential foundations of a retailer like Next PLC is logistics. The most critical research on ICT in this area is still ongoing since these tasks include many criteria and factors. Next PLC is an international brand with stores across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America. The choice of directions, the integration of IT routing and tracking systems, and the distribution of resources and goods are underway in these areas (Salhieh et al., 2021). Since Next PLC has repeatedly declared its desire to open new points in new cities, the issue of logistics technologies is especially relevant.

Finally, the use of technology in marketing deserves mention. The widespread use of mobile phones has led manufacturers to notice this possibility and researchers to explore algorithms and methods (Grewal et al., 2020). Here, however, it cannot be said that Next PLC is a pioneer in this matter. This organization is more conservative, for example, with the Sephora brand of cosmetics and perfumery stores, allowing customers to try their products in augmented reality, take photos, and share with friends on social networks.

On the one hand, it might seem that confronting such giants, Amazon or Alibaba, is almost impossible without the use of technologies. Each of the retail giants uses well-developed expert systems with forecasting skills, contextual recommendations, and a field for marketing under their leadership. A possible solution is to accept the rules of such marketplaces and place your products there for a certain percentage. However, the Next PLC example shows that this solution is not the only one. Next PLC does not have systems of the same scale as the indicated marketplaces. Undoubtedly, online sales are accompanied by a specific method of recommendations and filters for searching on the site. However, this does not stop Next PLC from increasing revenues every year.

Social Responsibility

Any activity in a large company is accompanied by communication between people. It can be communication between a manager and an employee, a director with a manager, an owner with a director, etc. In the case of Next PLC, communication between employees and customers is also added. Recently, this is not only a conversation in the store but also support for online sales, delivery services, and so on. It is no exaggeration to say that corporate ethics is a critical element of the Next PLC system.

Effective communication is essential throughout the chain, from the producer to the end consumer. One of the main criteria for such communication is interest. In most cases, this interest is dictated by the financial side of the issue. And, again, at all links of the typical chain along which the product passes. However, each case needs to be viewed from different points of view. The communication between the supplier and the company is other than the communication between the customer in the store and the cashier. Considering that the primary production of things in Next PLC communicates with the office in Hong Kong, the head office in Enderby, and both participants in the dialogue must also consider the international ethics of communication.

Moreover, interest is not a constant value with two discrete states. It is a dynamic process that responds to many extraneous factors, sometimes not even related to finance, economics, and the business industry as a whole. Studying such dynamics will lead to understanding not only the most common cases but also the development of corporate social responsibility in general (Hultman and Elg, 2018). The above study reveals only one of the many aspects of the issue: the relationship between suppliers and retail stores.

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Ensuring a high quality of life for every employee in such a large company with more than 19,000 employees worldwide is not an easy task. Nevertheless, debugging the communication mechanism between each link, and each position within the company directly affects the quality of communication with the end-user (Osakwe and Yusuf, 2020). Naturally, this is far from the only factor regulating the transmission of employees with the client. However, its influence is confirmed. Therefore, given the longevity of the company and the constant development around the world, Next PLC, at least, are working on it.

The company’s rich experience has been gained by working on several continents at once. In such matters, international relations, the specifics of the ethics of a particular country and people in it, the attitude of residents to the country-founder of the company, and much more are taken into account. Such a set of criteria defies forecasting and preliminary analysis. At least when Next PLC entered the world market, it was not predicted precisely then. Now the amount of information in the public domain that can be used for the benefit of corporate ethics is much more significant.

Moreover, the role of established traditions and unspoken codes of conduct is essential here (Achabou, 2020). Naturally, the national character of countries differs, and such norms will undergo various changes. Nevertheless, with the foundation and experience of international relations, it is much easier to continue spreading Next PLC than for another company to enter the global market now.

Carroll’s CSR pyramid includes four levels: economic responsibility, legal responsibility, ethical responsibility, and philanthropic responsibility. At the heart of the organization’s overall social responsibility is attention to economics. Society needs manufacturers and suppliers to supply them with goods and services. To maintain its operations, a company needs to make a profit (Carroll, 2016). Profit is the primary and primary key to other opportunities. The success of an organization also depends on other economic factors such as marketing, business strategy, attention to revenue, proper resource allocation, and so on. Finally, the company’s expansion will bring new jobs to the region.

Naturally, this activity should not contradict the law of the state. However, if most organizations can safely avoid criminal liability by conducting honest activities, they still have to hire lawyers. Regulation of financial activities, drafting contracts, paying taxes, and much more, which cannot be physically tracked at relatively high turnovers, is crucial. In addition, the increased competition between companies in this retail area is forcing these organizations to lead an increasingly transparent economy. Such steps lead to increased trust not only among clients but also among employees when hiring.

Ethical responsibility regulates communication and activities within the framework of moral and ethical standards, where the hand of the law does not reach. In other words, it corresponds to the spirit of the law, implied by its letter. Ethical responsibility, as mentioned above, is a highly developed area at Next PLC, given the company’s rich international experience. The possibility of communication built on mutual respect, trust regardless of nationalities, and other differences between people are the basis that allowed Next PLC to enter the world market. Today, ethical issues are being raised more and more in society, causing resonance and motivation for action. This aspect is vital for the company more than ever since with more than 500 stores worldwide, every employee must remember respect for the client and ethics.

Although ethical responsibility is portrayed in the pyramid as a separate category of CSR, it should also be seen as a factor that permeates and permeates the entire pyramid. Ethical considerations are present in each of the other types of responsibility (Carroll, 2016). Since there is communication between people at every stage of sales, it implies ethics. Most often, it is regulated behind the scenes by classical norms of morality and behavior. However, now the practice has begun to include the documented consolidation of the code of communication between the employee and the client, up to the definition of phrases that accompany the entire business process of selling goods.

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There is an opinion that the philanthropic activity of companies these days is more advertising in nature than altruistic. Every more or less large company values its reputation and is engaged in charity work because current social stereotypes require it. Next PLC also openly declares that its philanthropic activities are aimed at promoting its strengths and attitudes. For example, annual fixed donations to charitable organizations show that Next PLC has confidence in the future and can plan its income for the year ahead. Their task is to recycle their products with the environmental goal of reducing waste.

Recommendations

Naturally, any company using this CSR model contains several compromises and shortcomings. At its core, this model represents the motives for communication between people involved in this area of business. These motives are dictated by society, and its needs, and needs, including at the state level. Since communication is a dynamic process, then each category of this pyramid is also constantly in motion, influencing other types. For example, in the economy of any company, there is always a question the dilemma about the short and long-term earnings. Communication between owners, board of directors, and shareholders, their share of the vote in the overall decision is also a field of possible compromises.

However, it is necessary to view the conflicts of specific categories with others not as a confrontation but as a problem with one common root (Carroll, 2016). In the simplest example, the economy suffers losses due to the firm’s legal settlement and over-generous philanthropic activities. The CSR model assumes that the problem, in this case, lies either in the economy itself or encompasses all categories and requires a joint solution. In the case of Next PLC, it speaks volumes about the results of this model in the annual report for 2020, which again saw an increase in revenue. Consequently, charitable activities were not suspended, new experiences were gained in ethical responsibility (opening new stores in the world), and there were no lawsuits or cases involving the company.

In terms of technology, Next PLC manages to maintain a balance between the old traditions of offline retail and the introduction of new technologies. Despite the drop in in-store sales and the surge in online sales, the company remains true to its history and brand. By keeping retail stores around the world, Next PLC is keeping thousands of employees working and allowing shoppers to walk around the storefront. Technologies, in this case, are aimed at simplifying the work of employees, methods and algorithms for various analyses of big data, but in no way at replacing a human.

Conclusion

Thus, Next PLC is an international company that has preserved the tradition of in-store sales while simultaneously developing online technologies, realizing this increase in annual income. The organization monitors the development of information technology but does not seek to use everything possible just because it is possible. The company relies on time-tested technologies, periodically pioneering the use of the most promising.

Next PLC is a company with rich experience in international relations, where ethical responsibility for its activities is highly valued. Staying afloat for such a long time, and continuing to increase income even in times of a global pandemic, suggests that the first two stages of the CSR model, Next PLC, are required by society with dignity. Philanthropic activities are expected but not required by the community from a large company, and Next PLC is also conducted. Strong citizenship, reliability in the market, and many years of experience make Next PLC attractive both for buying goods and working in it.

Reference List

Achabou, M. A. (2020) ‘The effect of perceived CSR effort on consumer brand preference in the clothing and footwear sector’, European Business Review, 32(2), pp. 317-347.

Annual Report for the year ended January 2020 Next PLC (2020). Web.

Carroll, A.B. (2016) ‘Carroll’s pyramid of CSR: taking another look’, International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility, 1(3).

Grewal, D., et al. (2020) ‘The future of technology and marketing: a multidisciplinary perspective’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 48, pp. 1–8.

Hultman, J., and Elg, U. (2018) ‘Developing CSR in retail–supplier relationships: a stakeholder interaction approach’, The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 28(4), pp. 339-359.

Jin, B. E., and Shin, D. C. (2020) ‘Changing the game to compete: innovations in the fashion retail industry from the disruptive business model’, Business Horizons, 63(3), pp. 301-311.

Osakwe, C. N., and Yusuf, T. O. (2020) ‘CSR: a roadmap towards customer loyalty, Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 1-17.

Pederzoli, D. (2016) ‘ICT and retail: state of the art and prospects’, Information and Communication Technologies in Organizations and Society, pp. 329-336.

Salhieh, L., et al. (2021) ‘Integrating vehicle tracking and routing systems in retail distribution management, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 49(5). Web.

Szymański, G. (2018) ‘Development of the clothing industry in the retail market against new consumer challenges’, Scientific Papers of Silesian University of Technology. Organization and Management Series, 2018. pp. 377-386. Web.

Thompson, J., and McLarney, C. (2017) ‘What effects will the strategy changes undertaken by Next PLC have on themselves and their competition in the UK Clothing Retail Market’, Journal of Commerce and Management Thought, 8(2), pp. 234-264.

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