The words “benevolent” and “landlords” will rarely have been seen in the same sentence in Retail Week. Yet just four months after JJB, the UK’s major retail property owners have once again saved a struggling retailer’s skin by supporting a CVA, this time for Focus.
We are entering the age of the two-tier high street. On one side are the stable performers, the companies that ride out the ebbs and flows of the market and treat their suppliers and retailers the right way. On the other side are those that limp along from crisis to crisis, deploying pre-packs and CVAs, propped up not just by their landlords, but by their rivals.
Plenty of struggling retailers will be watching what Focus and JJB have done and wondering if they can do the same. Every retailer has stores it would love to get rid of, and now landlords have accepted the CVA concept, they have a legitimate route by which to do it.
Of course, if you’re not a business that’s in intensive care you wouldn’t want the stigma that comes with a CVA. The result: you’re left paying rent for your store on a failing retail park that your struggling rival has got out of scot-free.
It’s not fair, and if CVAs become the preferred route for struggling companies the Government will need to make changes to stop the system giving the retailers concerned unfair advantages over their rivals. But in the meantime, you can’t blame Focus and JJB for taking advantage.
By the trade, for the trade
There are few more uplifting experiences in retail than a trip to the hallowed halls and manicured lawns of Keble College for the annual Oxford Summer School, now in its 80th year (page 25).
The 212 retailers leaving Oxford today will come away with the knowledge and skills that should enable many of them to make the step up from being the managers of today to the leaders of tomorrow. Retail management is an intense, demanding career, with barely a second to step back and develop the skills required to be a fully rounded retailer. The summer school allows them to do just that and its track record is second to none.
What is really remarkable about it is that the dozens of retailers who run it give up a week of their time year after year to make it happen. It really is run by the trade, for the trade – here’s to the next 80 years.
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