Since Retail Week last published, Zavvi, Whittard, Adams, The Officers Club, USC, Passion for Perfume, Wedgwood and Viyella have gone into administration. Woolworths has closed its doors for good and Marks & Spencer has announced 1,200 job cuts.
These are hard times indeed and for those who had time to watch the news or read the papers over the Christmas period there was no end of negativity about retail, much of it justified, some of it – particularly the irresponsible, ghoulish and baseless predictions of the number of stores that are going to shut or businesses go bust in 2009 – not.
What’s particularly irksome is the strange sort of revelry some members of the media and rentaquote “experts” seem to take in the challenges the sector faces. Retailers, it feels, are seen as an enemy of consumers: rapacious merchants ready to take customers to the cleaners at any opportunity, now getting their comeuppance.
Enough is enough. Born over drinks with our friends at Barracuda Search and developed during conversations with many others in retail, Backing UK Retail is about the whole industry putting its differences aside to demonstrate how important this industry is to the economy, to society, to the very fabric of this country. Throughout January, in print and online, Retail Week will be highlighting retail’s vital role.
The general public knows how important retail is.
People will very quickly notice the holes left on more than 800 high streets by Woolworths closures. They will know some of the 30,000 people out of work as a result of the closures, plus the many thousands likely to follow suit from other administrations or cutbacks at retailers like M&S. They know that retail is the centre of lives and communities.
But opinion formers don’t, and politicians don’t. When City bankers or car makers lose their jobs, they care. When shopworkers do, they don’t.
But retail is the UK’s biggest private sector employer, the engine room of the economy and has offered consumers ever better value and choice over the past decade. We need to shout about it more.
This campaign is about changing perceptions but we need you to do your bit too. Visit our dedicated area at retail-week.com to lend your support and tell us your stories.
We’re backing UK retail. Are you?