Three emerging retailers have been discussing the opportunities and challenges of growing a retail business, particularly in the present challenging economic conditions.
Jewellery specialist Azendi managing director Ian Jones, kitchen specialist Steamer Trading Cookshop managing director Ben Phillips and Oliver Bonas managing director Oliver Tress were all talking at the Retail Week conference about the rising stars of retail.
They all admitted that the present climate was curbing some of their long-term plans.
Tress said: “We opened seven shops in the last year, it would have been 10 this year in my 10 year plan.” However, it may be half this figure or less in the recession he said.
Jones said that jewellery retailing was “very tough” and has taken drastic steps to try and move their business to perform better in the downturn.
“As soon as Lehman Brothers happened we immediately took down our base prices.”
He added: “This year we are getting rid of sales assistants and putting in sales people who see it as a career with commission and bonus structure.”
In stores where they have trialled this, the results, said Jones, had been “astonishing.”
Jones also said that rising business rates were, “a catastrophe waiting to happen”. He suggested that rates could perhaps be spread more evenly to online retailers too who do not have to pay any rates.
Rising local rates were also harming local high streets the panel agreed.
Tress said: “It will take a long time for lots of high streets to recover unless local governments can come up with imaginative tax breaks.”
One avenue the retailers agreed they would not go down, at least for the time being, was private equity.
Jones believed it was unnecessary for growth in the present climate. “It is not hard to find property and the cost of store fittings is going down,” he asserted.