It always looked as if 2018, the first half at least, would be a torrid time for retail. And so it has proved.
These signs of stress are writ large. Last-minute talks to rescue Maplin are under way – the hope is that Edinburgh Woollen Mill tycoon Philip Day will would play the white knight.
New Look’s finance boss is preparing to visit landlords and a CVA is thought to be among the options on the cards.
Toys R Us is teetering on the brink, jeopardising more than 3,000 jobs.
Even some of the new generation of rising retail stars are suffering – Missguided is cutting jobs after lower than hoped for sales growth and in anticipation of missing its profit target.
“Winning it and holding it, whether by methods old-fashioned or new, will mark out the industry’s winners”
However, there’s a risk that the pall cast over the industry by the latest slew of bad news obscures the fact that many retailers are succeeding and finding ways to navigate change.
Tesco’s planned merger with Booker is one example. In some ways it’s quite an old-fashioned merger, and might be viewed as Iceland-Booker revisited. However, it could also make old-fashioned good sense.
If well executed, it will extend the retailer’s wider food market share as well as take it into new commercial territories such as foodservice.
And at present, market share is probably the crucial measurement by which retailers can judge success.
Winning it and holding it, whether by methods old-fashioned or new, will mark out the industry’s winners.
The same approach is evident at Morrisons, through its tie-up with Amazon and development of the Safeway brand for wholesale, and in the Co-op’s acquisition of Nisa.
Similarly, relative retail newcomers such as Boohoo are taking market share in fashion as a result of speed to market, connection to customers and international expansion.
Away from online and in the world of pure bricks and mortar, there are soaraway successes too. Record market shares at Aldi are a monthly fixture of the monthly Kantar grocery data.
And Primark this week said it “is performing very well in the UK with sales 8% ahead of last year and a strong increase in our share of the total clothing market”.
Times may be tough. But they have been before. Whisper it, for every retailer going through the mill at the moment, there’s another doing well. There are plenty of good ideas, and good execution, to learn from.
New ideas for retail success
Good ideas, different ways of thinking and all sorts of business insights will take centre stage next week at Retail Week Live.
In this week’s issue, we speak to Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe about what he’s done since taking the top job at the high street institution.
At Live, I’m looking forward to interviewing him about his ambitions for the retailer in the future as he pushes on with his plans to make M&S special again and refocuses on a digital-first approach.
The digital theme will run right through the event, reflecting the impact of technological change on retail. We’ll hear from leading lights such as Ocado chief technology officer Paul Clarke, Sainsbury’s Argos boss John Rogers and head of Tesco Labs Angela Maurer.
Live speakers also include big names from beyond the traditional industry, whose experience and insights hold lessons for retailers, such as Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene and BrewDog’s David McDowall.
It should be a great couple of days. If you’re coming, I look forward to seeing you there. If you’re not able to get along in person, you can follow all the developments on our website as they happen.
Find out more about Retail Week Live at Live.Retail-Week.com