In the run up to Retail Week Live 2017, Andrew Busby delves into the Retail Week archives to see what made the headlines years ago.

The annual retail extravaganza that is Retail Week Live is nearly upon us, this year at the O2 InterContinental on March 8 and 9.

And if you haven’t yet got your tickets, I’d suggest you hurry – for these are two days of retail not to be missed.

Taking place not long after the behemoth that is the NRF Retail’s Big Show in New York, Retail Week Live is in many ways a more accurate barometer to test the temperature of UK retail.

After all, the UK leads the way in digital, specifically mobile adoption and penetration, making this an unmissable conference.

But instead of looking forward, let’s look back at some of the headlines that made retail news in previous years:

Amazon’s virtual mall strategy could backfire’ (October 2003)

We are familiar with the concept now, offering space on your online web marketplace to other retailers, but in 2003 it was seen as a risky move.

Ovum analyst Myles Gorton was said: “Amazon wants to become the global one-stop shop, but the problem is getting enough suppliers to buy in”. Well, they don’t seem to be doing too badly.

‘2009 retail technology predictions’ (December 2008)

In a report published by Gartner discussing technology predictions, it was claimed that there were still opportunities for retailers to reach consumers, especially through mobile phones.

It went on to advise retailers that ‘they will need to deliver a two-pronged strategy, taking into consideration how the physical store is affected by the mobile phone, and how the mobile channel can generate revenue in its own right.’

Seems Gartner’s crystal ball was better than others at the time.

“Some reading this may ask who were Blockbuster and what was AOL? Precisely”

‘Blockbuster in AOL deal’ (June 2004)

This headline announced that Blockbuster was to distribute AOL software in all of its 720 UK stores.

Some reading this may ask who were Blockbuster and what was AOL? Precisely.

‘Rise of online shoppers slows amid signs of market maturity’ (February 2004)

Yes, you read that correctly. In response to this, research company AMR wrote: ‘Multichannel retailing – especially where customers buy online but pick the item up from a local store – could turn out to be one of the hot services of the year for retailers.’

‘For retailers to respond successfully to the demand for multichannel sales, they need to be sure that their channels are in sync, and that their bricks and mortar locations have the items in stock and the capability to handle volume demand.’

Quite. And in case you were wondering, it wasn’t for another three years until the first iPhone was launched.

How on earth did we ever survive without it?

‘Best Buy aims to take a significant share in UK’ (March 2009)

Speaking at what was then the Retail Week Conference, former Best Buy chief executive Brad Anderson said: “We will have a fundamentally different value proposition we are offering the customer, because we are totally directed at the connected world”. Pity you weren’t more connected with the market, Brad.

And finally, my personal favourite:

‘Woolworths shareholder backs Malcolm Walker bid rejection’ (September 2008)

Walker, backed by Woolies shareholder Baugur (remember them?), proposed buying the 815 Woolworths stores for £50 million, but leaving the parent company with a near £100 million pension deficit. Sounds familiar. But what a tale of ‘if only’.

  • Andrew Busby is founder of Retail Reflections and The Retail Advisory Board and an IBM Futurist