Retailers campaigning against rises in business rates, worries about growing consumer debt, Sainsbury’s being praised for its advertising, Marks & Spencer boldly expanding abroad. They could all be this week’s news, but in fact all are stories from the very first issue of Retail Week, published 21 years and one day ago.

With this week’s issue you’ll find a special book reviewing the first 21 years of the magazine and we hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Aside from the haircuts and large-framed spectacles, what’s interesting about the old issues are those stories that are very much of their time, such as the industry’s collective preoccupation with Sunday trading, or the new compact disc chain in the first issue that featured “leather sofas intended to make yuppie customers feel comfortable”.

But while some of the names may change, the lesson of the past 21 years is fundamentally that the business of retailing doesn’t change. It is easy to complicate, and has become more complex with the arrival of the internet, increasing red tape and the growing demands of customers. Fundamentally, though, it’s about buying product for one price and selling it for more. As the industry has become more sophisticated, retailers have had to come up with ever more imaginative ways of managing that equation – often using store design or technology – to create competitive advantage.

Retail Week has been built on covering those changes. From the start it built strong relationships within the industry, with names such as Ian MacLaurin, Sir Terence Conran and Anita Roddick gracing the first editorial advisory board. The operation is very different now, with a larger team and constantly updated web operation, but the mission is exactly the same as Patience Wheatcroft set out in 1988.

“Retailers recognise the need for a lively, up-to-date newspaper which will deal seriously with every aspect of retail management,” she wrote in the first issue. “We are confident that we have created a newspaper that a dynamic, innovative and professional industry like retailing deserves.”

No one could have foreseen the pace of change in the intervening 21 years but today retail is, if anything, an even more dynamic, innovative and professional industry, and one that it is a privilege for Retail Week to serve.

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