Opinion: Christmas trading statements? Take them with a pinch of salt

Richard Hyman

In the mid-1980s, the UK retail landscape was very different. Aldi had yet to open here. Having conquered much of continental Europe, Ikea was just starting to eye Britain.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco ruled grocery retailing. Britain’s strongest and most admired retailer was Marks & Spencer. Next was not yet even on M&S’ radar. The industry was physically immature.

The consumer economy was healthy. Credit was increasingly easily available, allowing the public to buy now and pay later. Inflation in prices and wages helped to ease the pain of rising consumer debt. Growing retail businesses were all about opening more stores, preferably bigger and bigger ones.

Back then, UK retailers didn’t actually release any statements around Christmas trading at all.

The first began to emerge in the late 1980s, and once Pandora’s box was opened all the quoted companies felt obliged to follow.

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