Simon Burke is chairman of Majestic Wine and Superquinn

Sic transit Baugur. 10 years ago we had hardly heard of it. Here are a few other things most of us hadn’t heard of in 1999.

Credit insurance

Probably the most significant, its influence is hugely amplified by tough times. Credit insurers become the éminence grise of retail, being a new stakeholder for every retailer whose say-so can now mean life or death.

Good or bad? Maybe good in moderation. I’m sure credit insurers are a great boon to suppliers and that helps many retailers get stock, but I worry about the increasing reliance on them and the power they are accumulating. Here to stay for sure and the question is how, not whether, they are to be regulated.


Another feature of tough times, though not a new phenomenon. Pre-packs have an image problem because they look like sharp practice, with previous owners seemingly able to cherry-pick the best stores and leave the rest (and the creditors) behind.

Good or bad? Woolworths’ demise showed how being in administration for any time can destroy the chances of saving even the good bits of a retailer. If pre-packs are to be seen as a good thing, the onus is on the administrator to show that they represent the best chance of recovering value for all stakeholders.

Multichannel retailing

In 1999, dotcom mania was getting into its stride. Remember the talk of empty high streets because everyone would be shopping online? Like the paperless office, it didn’t work out that way – but the internet has had a profound effect on retailing with plenty more to come.

Good or bad? Definitely a good thing, allowing retailers to emerge and giving existing ones new ways to connect with customers. I wonder, though, how much we all make from online retail, compared with traditional operations?


The term for smothering your competition by outbuilding them until you are the only game in town. One of the less attractive sides of our most successful retailer of the last decade. Evidenced by the number of people who profess not to like Tesco, but still do their shopping there because of its convenience, etc.

Good or bad? Well, you can’t just pick the bits of a business you like or dislike and ignore the rest, you have to take it as a package. If it didn’t compete the way it does, it wouldn’t be Tesco. Overall, it has to be a great example of British retailing at its best.

Global warming/carbon footprints

How to keep green was in danger of becoming the overriding issue for retailers until the recession came along and is still important. I suspect that this issue will be less talked about
for a while and many of the gimmicks retailers have deployed to draw attention to their green credentials will quietly disappear.

Good or bad? Expensive for retailers and suppliers, and tempting to say that much of what’s happening is a knee-jerk reaction to the media bandwagon. But this has made us all focus on the impact of our activity on the planet, which has to be good.