Will 2012 be the year in which retailers finally stop opening stores, or will things be somewhat more complex?
Last week news came from those in the know that there would be few, if any, new stores opening in 2012 which were not located in developing markets. Granted the BRICS (South Africa has now been added to the acronym) are fertile territory for canny retailers, but are things really as gloomy as this statement asserts?
At the same time as this prediction was made, Christmas trade suspicion was becoming reality. Information was provided by a number of retailers that while Christmas may have garnered volume sales, margins were hammered and store portfolios were going to require close scrutiny and possible ‘down-sizing’. All of which might make you imagine that there will indeed be few, if any, new stores that will make us gasp this year.
And yet walking along Edinburgh’s George Street last week, it was hard not to notice that Hollister is coming to town with all the usual media chatter that accompanies such an event. It is equally certain that we will see further Jack Wills outlets, a smattering of Primarks and a Superdry or three, among many others. All of which does not sound remotely like a new store drought, even if the it’s just fashion that’s being talked about.
The other point that the no new stores in 2012 aphorism fails to tackle is the fact that when consumer spending is reined in, retailers may open fewer stores, but those that remain will be made to work harder. Money will still have to be spent on improving stores if precious shopper cash is to be garnered and the outcome is likely to better places to shop.
All is not lost therefore and there will definitely be new and refurbished stores as the months roll by. The one thing that it might be good to see a few less of is cupcake shops. Cupcakes are to this decade what cookies were to the noughties - they’re everywhere and it does rather seem that when in doubt open a cupcake shop. These will probably go the way of all fads and become a high street footnote, if not in 2012, then certainly before we reach the decade’s mid-years.
And for those still filled with misgiving, take a trip down Regent Street and take a look at the new Superdry flagship. This opened just before Christmas and is currently trading from a single floor. By April it will have three floors from which to select – proof both that hope springs eternal and that if you have something that people want, then life will continue more or less as normal