Britain is in a bad mood. While politicians are bearing the brunt of an anti-establishment mindset, evidenced in last weekend’s European elections, retailers will have to ponder the potential practical consequences.
Britain is in a bad mood.
While politicians are bearing the brunt of an anti-establishment mindset, evidenced in last weekend’s European elections, retailers will have to ponder the potential practical consequences.
Although the focus of the last few days has been Europe, where years of instability and economic difficulties have affected the performance of international operations ranging from Dixons’ Greek business to M&S’s Irish arm, the most immediate concern may be closer to home.
In September, Scotland will vote on independence and there may be big implications for the retail industry.
Top retailers, notably some of the supermarket chiefs, have warned that separation might force them to pass on increased business costs to Scottish consumers.
Devolution has already added complexity to retailing in the UK, whether it’s plastic bag taxes in Wales or the idea of a levy on big stores in Northern Ireland.
Retailers have traditionally sold products at the same price from Islington to Inverness but that might end if Scotland goes its own way.
Whether it’s more and different regulation or higher distribution costs, a change to the country’s status might well result in higher prices in Scotland’s stores.
It might be argued that if any such costs are borne by consumers in Scotland, retailers need not worry.
But that is to ignore the fact that if Scottish shoppers find their money is not going as far as it once did, the result may be reined in spend. That would be unwelcome for the retail industry – especially those with the most significant presence in Scotland.
Retailers would not seek to unduly influence the independence debate but they should continue to point out the implications of the choices on offer.
That will help ensure the health of the industry which – as such a big employer – will in turn help ensure the economic health of the country.
Selfridges invests to raise the department store bar again
“People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.”
So said Harry Selfridge, and the advice is still followed by the department store business that bears his name.
The retailer is spending £300m on upgrading its accessories department, including doubling its floorspace, and transforming the eastern, Duke Street side of the shop.
Selfridges has been a torch-bearer for department store excellence for many years now and it looks poised to raise the bar again, playing a vital role in flying the flag for the UK’s retail reputation.