Making sense of the past seven days
There's been lots of talk about Tony Blair's legacy as the Prime Minister prepares to stand down after 10 years.

As far as retail is concerned, he may actually have made a big contribution to the industry, even as he is closing the door to Number 10.

It's understood that Blair has vetoed proposals to remove the penal option of imprisonment for persistent shoplifters. The proposal, which the Sentencing Advisory Panel has been consulting on, enraged retailers and prompted Retail Week to organise the Take Retail Crime Seriously campaign.

It looks as if victory is in sight, although it will be Gordon Brown who will make a final decision on the matter after he assumes the premiership.

It's good to see that retail crime has moved up the political agenda and testament to the fact that when retailers speak with one voice, they can make themselves heard in the corridors of power. And the result is that, if they happen to find themselves discussing the Blair legacy, store chiefs might remember him for something other than Iraq.

Yesterday's interest rate rise may have been expected, but it was not welcome.

Amid signs that conditions are really tightening in parts of the retail market such as big-ticket and a nagging sense of unease that the consumer economy may slow down later in the year, retailers could have done without the extra burden that the rate rise brings.

A series of recent rises has, in the main, failed to dent performance on the high street, but that may change. Carpetright has already blamed high rates for precipitating a profit warning. There may be more to come as the impact is felt fully in consumers' pockets.

The only possible response from retailers, however, is to get on with business as usual and to give consumers compelling reasons to carry on shopping. Store chiefs must now be on their mettle, both to retain their share of spend and poach that of their rivals.

Back in 2005, when trading conditions became very harsh, many in the stores industry had little previous experience of a downturn. But the experience of that year will have provided valuable learnings that can be made use of now if a slowdown does materialise.