The news that Next’s shop-in-shop trial in the Surrey Quays Tesco is the biggest surprise since the retailer announced its Black Friday Sale.

The fact that both of these initiatives are very small should not mask their significance.

This is the most challenging retail market we have ever seen and is the defining time for the industry. The defining part will take some years, but it has started. And no one is immune – everyone is feeling the pinch.

Each company deals with pressure very differently. Ironically, it is often the strongest who find pressure the toughest because they are not used to facing challenges. I think we are seeing this at Next.

Partnering up

Doing Black Friday is very out of character for a retailer that has prized price integrity so highly. In the most promotional market ever seen, it stood firm, only running Sales to clear seasonal stock.

It is hard to imagine what the business learned from a very limited trial and all in all, I wonder what the point was.

This latest trial is just as hard to fathom. Next and Tesco make strange bedfellows. Next has seen what Arcadia has done with Tesco and has determined that this is an attractive strategic opportunity. I admit that I am shocked.

“I’m far less certain that Next sits comfortably in any kind of supermarket at all”

Given the underlying decline in sales performance at Next stores, one would have thought that opening more space didn’t rank high on its to do list.

Over the past 10 years or so, Tesco’s customer focus has narrowed. This is reflected in its ranging. The upper reaches of its “Best” offering have been generally pared and often, edited out altogether.

It may have made for a better partner 10 years ago but now, I’m far less certain. Indeed, I’m far less certain that Next sits comfortably in any kind of supermarket at all.

Richard Hyman is the founder of Richard Talks Retail

Richard Hyman