You could be forgiven for thinking that there’s not much to be optimistic about in UK retail at the moment. But maybe the foreign retailers still flooding into the UK have seen something we haven’t?
Yesterday’s Times showed an interesting graphic comparing the tenant line-up at Brent Cross when it opened 32 years ago with today.
Back then the only overseas retailer was Benetton. Today, there are more international names than those based here.
More well known names, such as Hollister and Anthropologie, are set to arrive on these shores, plus a raft of lesser-known names, many of which are debuting at Westfield London. Even global brands which traditionally have no connection to retail, such as National Geographic and Ferrari, are getting in on the act on Regent Street.
Overseas retailers have added hugely to the tapestry of UK retail. Businesses like Zara, H&M and Ikea have changed the very fabric of the industry, and forced inidgenous players to raise their game. Others, like Abercrombie, have made a statement with one store, and created a buzz which other retailers could only dream about.
But I fear for many of the overseas entrants. For every Ikea, there’s an Ilva. And when you walk into stores like Desigual in Regent Street or Whole Foods in Kensington, the first question which springs to mind is how on earth are these sparsely shopped stores making money?
UK retail has had its fair share of failures overseas, but likewise, expect a good number of these new international entrants to exit with their tails between their legs.
UK retail is a competitive place at any time, but in a recession, it’s going to be brutal.