Making sense of the past seven days
For a retailer with such a cuddly image, Co-operative Group has shown itself capable of making hard-nosed decisions.

Famous for its proletarian origins and the divi, the retailer has maintained its progressive ethos by championing fair trade and similar ethical initiatives.

So far, so worthy you might think, but retailing with a conscience is backed by a renewed commercial focus that sets examples to others. On Wednesday, Co-op unveiled a 31.6 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to£157.4 million.

A strong food performance, especially from c-stores, which generated a like-for-like sales uplift of 7 per cent, was testament to a skilful turnaround after a spate of acquisitions a few years back proved over-ambitious.

Improving fortunes have been characterised by unsentimental farewells to weak businesses. The retailer is exiting department stores - two trial home shops will be shut next year. The food estate is being pruned - 50 weaklings have been shut, compared with just six openings.

The Co-op's reinvigoration of its core food arm has been conducted under a very simple premise: better shops, better products, better service and better execution.

It's a straightforward mantra and a world away from the consultant-speak that retailers sometimes spout. It epitomises what retail is all about and is a slogan that everyone in the business - from the boardroom to the delivery bays - can understand and apply to their own jobs.

It's exactly the sort of attitude that you can imagine that the retailer's founders had when they started catering for their working class customers in Rochdale back in 1840.

As long as the retailer can maintain its focus, it should be able to remain relevant on the high streets of today. With sales of£4 billion, there's space for profit growth to continue.

Fashion retailers have had a torrid time for much of this year. In the past few weeks alone, the gossip is that many have suffered double-digit sales declines and yesterday the mighty Sir Philip Green revealed that profits at Bhs more than halved in the last financial year.

Retailers' complaints about the weather are certainly justified, but the ferocity of competition is undoubtedly taking a deadly toll as well.

So it's a brave decision for Spanish giant Cortefiel to set its sights on the UK market.

As we report in this week's issue, Cortefiel hopes to make its debut here next year, probably by way of a franchise deal. That will limit the liabilities for the Spanish company. It will be fascinating to find out who, in this most difficult of clothing markets, will be prepared to shoulder the risk.