One of the challenges of writing an article is that you are given a theme and asked to write 350 words on that subject. 

One of the challenges of writing an article is that you are given a theme and asked to write 350 words on that subject. 

Unsurprisingly and as this is my first article of the new year, I have been asked to review the past year in retailing and make predictions for the coming 12 months. 

Unfortunately, I am not going to need 350 words as last year was crap and next year will be worse. I wish I could be full of optimism but I believe that the next year will be one of the most challenging in retail history for a number of reasons. 

Forget the macro- and microeconomics for a moment as I believe that there are bigger threats to retail as we know it, and that is the advent of the online marketplace. 

With the entry into Europe of Alice.com it can only be a matter of time before it comes to Britain, thereby giving the FMCG brands a direct route to the consumer. 

This will have massive repercussions for the grocery industry as we’re familiar with it because brands will be able to build a direct one-to-one relationship with their customer and replace their sales lost in the supermarkets’ move into own-label. 

However, it is Amazon and Amazon’s Marketplace that is, I believe, the single biggest strategic threat to not only the high street but also to businesses such as Tesco as well. (Although I know that the newly divinely appointed beloved father, great marshall and mastermind of the revolution, Philip Clarke, has his Cheshunt central apparatchiks feverishly working on a Tesco marketplace to counter this threat to his rule and Tesco’s current domination.)   

Is it too little too late as Amazon’s international sales grew 33% in the last quarter with electronics and general merchandise up by 54%?

Amazon is now  building its European grocery operation and, although embryonic compared with the established grocery chains in Europe at the moment, do not underestimate the online behemoth –  it could make a quantum leap forward if it was to buy Ocado. Now that’s what you call a prediction for 2012.

  • Jamie Zuppinger, Co-founder and joint managing director, Barracuda Search