Retailers are turning to independent consultants for their technology projects rather than large management consultancy firms.

Odgers Connect, the consulting arm of executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, surveyed 250 board-level executives across large enterprises in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

It found that more than half (61 per cent) of retailers think independent consultants deliver a higher quality of work than traditional consultancy firms when it comes to technology.

Enhancing existing technology (21%) was found to be a key area for retailers to turn to independent consultants, as well as financial management (24%), risk and regulatory work (21%) and sales and marketing (21%).

Adam Gates, Principal at Odgers Connect, said: “When it comes to large business strategy projects, there’s still an attitude of ‘strength in numbers’ and ‘brand reputation’ associated with the well-established firms.

“However, key areas such as financial management, risk and digital technology are now falling into the territory of independents, with retailers valuing the in-depth expertise, flexibility and objectivity that an independent professional can bring to the business.”

Almost half (48 per cent) of retailers cited flexibility as the primary reason for choosing an independent consultant over a traditional management consultancy firm.

Alongside technology, retailers thought independent consultants delivered a better quality of work than their corporate piers in financial management (61%) and risk and regulation (61%).

Gates added: “With the likes of Amazon disrupting the retail market, many retailers are still on the back foot in the innovation race and are therefore looking for external advice and support that brings immediate impact.

“Independent consultants offer the perfect blend of flexibility, high-quality work and specific expertise that bricks and mortar stores and omni-channel retailers are increasingly in need of to contend with a new generation of competitors.

“Using a mainstream firm can often be seen as a safe bet, and if things don’t go well, there’s a fall guy to blame. However, this sentiment is certainly starting to wane, with more and more retailers looking for a more agile and senior level of engagement, especially with the number of household names going into administration and entering into CVAs.”

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