Last week Aussie stationery outfit Typo opened a new store in a London shopping centre and it looked impressive, if pens and fancy paper are your thing.
A few weeks prior to that, Aussie stationery outfit Smiggle opened a UK flagship on Oxford Street that is likely to have huge appeal if you happen to be under, perhaps, 12 years old and want to make a classroom statement.
Then there’s RM Williams. If you are Australian and have the funds, buying a pair of RMs (like Chelsea boots, but for the Outback) is a rite of passage.
This more niche operation now has a bricks-and-mortar toehold in the UK, but any kind of roll-out will be more limited for the simple reason that most people would have to save and save to afford its products.
“A tsunami of Australian retailers have opted to occupy empty units in this country at a time when many homegrown operations have been taking stock about the wisdom of new stores”
It is tempting at this Down Under moment to mention DIY giant Bunnings and Kikki.K (yet another stationery concern), but enough.
The fact of the matter is that a tsunami of Australian retailers have opted to occupy empty units in this country at a time when many homegrown operations have been taking stock about the wisdom of new stores.
So why would you do this if you were the management of a large retailer?
In spite of everything, reports still emerge fairly regularly that London is the world’s most coveted destination for retailers who have not already got a shop here.
Maybe, but the capital is something of a one-off. Is it a UK springboard? If your new store search were beyond the M25, would you be quite so sanguine?
Perhaps, but you’d be massively careful about the choice of location as rates, Brexit and UK consumer sentiment combine to create a Trumpesque Mexican wall for incoming retailers.
There are, of course, places where retailers will still flourish. Cathedral cities remain attractive.
“You’d be careful about the location as rates, Brexit and UK consumer sentiment combine to create a Trumpesque Mexican wall for incoming retailers”
And the CVAs and closures we have been seeing this year are as much to do with poor management as they are with shoppers not shopping.
Forgetting London for a moment, then, is it worth opening new shops in the UK at large?
Yes – but selectively. And, at a time when even successful retail incomes such as Smiggle are mulling whether it would be right to open further stores in the face of booming online, it’s hard not to wonder where the high street’s new is going to come from.