Sitting in a top fashion retailer’s office on Tuesday with the air-conditioning turned up to full blast, it wasn’t hard to see why selling clothes is hard at the moment.

Sitting in a top fashion retailer’s office on Tuesday with the air-conditioning turned up to full blast, it wasn’t hard to see why selling clothes is hard at the moment. It’s one thing when the transition from summer into autumn is exceptionally mild, but another altogether when it’s November and the central heating hasn’t even gone on yet.

When it’s still mild this far into the season it becomes very hard to make up the lost sales, even with soft comps immediately pre-Christmas. The weather is only compounding the wider malaise in consumer sentiment.

Against that background Next’s 3.3% third-quarter sales rise is a creditable performance. But the numbers that make up that figure make the pace of change in retail crystal clear, with a significant like-for-like decline in the stores being compensated for by a marked acceleration in the growth of the Directory business.

Online growing at the expense of stores is nothing new. But combined with the current market conditions, it poses big questions for the future for those retailers with extensive store portfolios. The slump in consumer confidence is hopefully only cyclical, but many of the changes it is bringing about in retail will be permanent.

Signing off

After nearly seven years and something approaching 350 issues, this is the last issue of Retail Week I have edited.

It has been a period of tremendous change in retail, and it has been an absolute privilege to be able to report on the people and companies that make this the most dynamic and interesting industry there is.

It has also been a period of massive change in the media too – who’d have thought in 2005 we’d be breaking news stories in 140 characters on something called Twitter? The web has helped us be quicker with the news and more responsive, but whether it’s in print, online or at our events, Retail Week’s mission to help retailers understand their industry better is the same.

I’m leaving behind a hugely talented team of journalists under whom Retail Week will go from strength to strength. But it only exists because of the brilliant support it gets from the industry. And so to anyone who in the past seven years has given us a story, bought an advert, spoken at a Retail Week Conference, come to an awards dinner or just gossiped with us over a cup of tea, thank you.