Retail leaders who built companies during Baroness Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister have paid tribute to her impact on business and retail following her death on Monday.
During Lady Thatcher’s time in charge, the consumer economy grew as households bought shares in privatised state companies and borrowing became easier as the memory of the three-day week and Britain’s reputation as the economic “sick man of Europe” were left behind.
“Thatcher was seminal in the revival of the UK economy”
Lord Kalms, former Conservative party treasurer and friend
She sharply polarised opinion but Dixons president Lord Kalms, a former Conservative party treasurer and friend, described himself as “unashamedly one of her greatest supporters”.
He said Baroness Thatcher was “seminal in the revival of the UK economy” and her policies benefited business and society more widely.
Kalms said: “Her first term laid the foundations and the second term achieved major tax cuts, which not only revived demand but created the long-lost motivation of enterprise to increase investment in their business.
“For the first time in a generation there were real incentives for employees to earn more take-home pay and enhance their lifestyle.
“From the disaster of a 98% tax bracket to 40% meant that effort created genuine reward. For Dixons, we became super-charged with confidence under a post-war Prime Minister who for the first time understood the concept of a market economy and the benefits it brought to the nation.”
“She created a positive climate for business and the consumer”
Sir Geoff Mulcahy, Kingfisher architect
Kingfisher architect Sir Geoff Mulcahy said: “The main impact was in creating a positive climate for business and the consumer, which allowed us to grow and restructure the businesses.
“We took advantage of employee share ownership plans at the beginning of the 1980s, out of which employees profited from the success of the business.
“We went through periods of high interest rates and the recession at the end of the 1980s, but throughout there was a much more positive attitude towards business.”
One of Baroness Thatcher’s best-known – and controversial policies – was the sale of council houses. Carpetright founder Lord Harris, a long-standing supporter of Baroness Thatcher and former Conservative Party treasurer, said: “She enabled people to own their own houses and, in our sector, it made people buy carpets and furniture.”
“She enabled people to own their own houses and, in our sector, it made people buy carpets and furniture.”
Lord Harris, Carpetright founder
DFS founder Lord Kirkham, also a former party treasurer, agreed that such measures helped retailers. “If people are given the opportunity to buy their home it makes them want to spend money on it,” he said, adding that businesses also benefitted from Thatcher “breaking the stronghold that the unions had”.
Harris added: “She made more entrepreneurs by making it worthwhile to set up a business with the tax reductions.”
“She made more entrepreneurs by making it worthwhile to set up a business ”
Lord Kirkham, DFS founder
Thatcher’s funeral will take place next Wednesday, April 17, when there will be a procession from Westminster to St Paul’s Cathedral.
High security is expected because of the possibility of protests from groups politically opposed to the former Prime Minster whose legacy in parts of the UK, such as some former mining and industrial areas, is reviled.
Central London retailers are expected to meet the police later this week to discuss any likely impact on footfall and trade.