Retailers face many injustices, some real, others perceived. But they don’t come much bigger than this. One of your biggest rivals – which has been in administration and then bought out – has a store on a major high street. And you’re paying their rent.
Sounds crazy? It’s happening. And it’s happening because of the way in which pre-pack administrations are being exploited by some retailers (page 18). While it’s suppliers and landlords that take most of the flak, other retailers – where they’ve assigned the lease on a store to the company that is the subject of the administration – end up on the hook too.
Shoe tycoon John Kinnaird has built an empire out of pre-packs, while Officers Club, Whittard and USC went the same way before Christmas. While Sir Tom Hunter might proclaim he had saved more than 1,000 jobs at USC, what he had really done was get the retailer out of its obligations.
That’s nothing to be proud of and the exploitation of the pre-pack mechanism is hitting everyone in retail by making credit insurance even harder to obtain. A system with good intentions has become a loophole that needs to be closed.
The real Christmas story
Before Sir Stuart Rose and Sir Geoff Mulcahy were interviewed on Sky on Tuesday night, a sinister graphic was shown where a typhoon gradually engulfed a UK high street. And why not? Putting aside the quirks of Easter timing, the BRC said December was the worst month’s performance on record.
But hold on – didn’t the Government cut VAT on December 1, cutting 2.13 per cent off the price of most non-food items and some food products too? Even Tesco, despite most food being VAT exempt, lost a whole 1 per cent of its like-for-like growth because of the VAT cut.
Even taking into account the slew of negative updates expected yesterday, the real story of Christmas 2008 is that of a resilient performance in a brutal economic environment.
That’s another reason why we’re backing UK retail and why so many of you are too. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to our campaign so far but if you haven’t signed up yet, take a minute today to add your support at retail-week.com/backingukretail.
Visit retail-week.com/blog today to read Tim’s blog Retail Day