Big and small retailers: they’re both beautiful. But those with a medium-sized operation could be in trouble.

Now is the time to be either very big or small. Last week saw DIY also-ran Focus disappear into administration, which is reason for gloom. On the other hand, a bit like Woolies, ask yourself the question when did you last wander into a Focus, and perhaps just as pertinently, did you buy anything?

The problem that faces many retailers in what might be termed division two within the UK league is that they are just ‘me too’ brands that offer nothing particularly different to potential shoppers other than that they happen to be around. This is fine when the economy is awash with dosh, but probably insufficient when cash is not stashed.

At this point, shoppers will tend to frequent the larger brand for no better reason that there is a consistency of approach that means you know what you’re going to get.  There was more on offer in a B&Q than in a Focus and selection and in-store environment will win out over convenience – DIY retailing is destination-based, rather than being chosen because it’s just around the corner.

The same thing might be said of a number of other players and it’s difficult not to feel that some sort of a shake-down is beginning to occur. The biggest brands are also the ones that have continued to invest in the way their stores look, sticking with new format roll-outs and development – Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food spring to mind.

It was said a while back that the worst place to be in UK retail was in the middle-price ground – you’d get eaten by the luxury merchants at the top and the discounters at the bottom. This has not proved to be entirely correct and it’s less the middle-priced retailers that are threatened than those of middle physical size, such as Focus - merchants who do the same as larger retailers, but don’t have the cash to keep innovating.

Which brings the matter of small retailers into, ermm, focus. In many instances, these remain buoyant simple because it’s less costly to reinvent or keep pace with change in a very modestly sized enterprise, than in a bigger, but not enormous, company. It’s always sad to see a name that’s been around for a long time go the way of all flesh, but it does seem that there are rather a lot of second tier operators that must be looking at Focus and wondering if they might be next.