Despite the tough headwinds rocking the retail industry, no other sector offers the potential to reap such significant rewards.
If you are reading this column and not in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room, you’re probably not a gynaecologist, rocket scientist or firefighter. More likely you are, like me, a retailer or closely associated fellow traveller.
And aren’t you lucky! In the past 12 months alone we have experienced a weather pattern that has totally fooled farms and gardens, and made a complete nonsense of every fashion retailer’s stock forecasts.
Currency and oil have fought it out in the battle of fluctuations, where what goes up impacts immediately and what comes down is passed on eventually, creating a budgeting nightmare.
Government-imposed wage hikes, helping those hardest hit by austerity measures and welfare cuts, have added significantly to many retailers’ future staffing costs.
While global unrest, air strikes and migration of Biblical proportions have all contributed to headlines that have achieved their desired effect of striking terror into our hearts, adding precisely nothing to consumer confidence.
Brexit and the huge uncertainty that fear-based arguments create is a mere dab of icing on our tasty cake of everyday retail challenges.
But do we seasoned shopkeepers care? Of course not – bring it on!
After all we have fed and clothed our appreciative customers, and made the nation’s homes more comfortable, for generations.
We cut our teeth on long hours and seven-day opening, unreasonable landlords, outrageous property taxes, indecisive snail’s-pace planning authorities, bureaucracy and red tape.
And if any of our colleagues happen to incur the wrath of the media by sticking rigidly within our tax laws and paying what is legally due in full and on time, that is not the end of the world.
“We as retailers enjoy the thrill and good fortune of having our decisions and talents tested minute by minute every single day as the tills ring up the score”
Regardless retailing is the greatest business on Earth.
A professional footballer has his own and his team’s skill measured over 90 minutes, usually just once a week. While we as retailers enjoy the thrill and good fortune of having our decisions and talents tested minute by minute every single day as the tills ring up the score.
The material rewards to the winners can be absolutely mega. As fictional East End retailer Derek Trotter might have quipped, “The world is your lobster.” Mais oui!
There are more superyachts around the globe, I speculate, owned by European retailers than either oligarchs or sheikhs.
The founding families of Aldi, Lidl and Ikea have not done badly, and our very own Sir Philip has also enjoyed a none too shabby result.
Reaping the rewards
The Dalai Lama tells us, however, material wealth, money and “things” are not necessarily all they are cracked up to be. Real happiness stems from inside us: it is about fulfilment and satisfaction.
While courtesy of retail I have the ability to easily pay my bills, and recognise that as no disadvantage, I am even more fortunate to be as fulfilled, content and satisfied as any heart surgeon or oncologist could possibly be.
Being a shopkeeper and living the concept that the customer is always right – and Graham Kirkham certainly is not – has undoubtedly helped me greatly in my successful quest for happiness.
I do hope that the dynamic and fabulous wonder of retailing delivers for you, too.
- Lord Kirkham is the founder of DFS