Making sense of the past seven days
Most people in retail would acknowledge that 2005 has been the year of Primark. Anyone who remained unconvinced of the ABF subsidiary's apparent Midas touch would probably have come round when they saw the 3 per cent rise in its parent company's share price, following Tuesday's devastating fire at Primark's distribution warehouse.

The slow market and ample supplies of winter stock resulting from the mild weather and Chinese quota problems have meant that most fashion retailers are stuck with too much stock. Primark has alternative warehousing and full insurance cover, so it's unlikely that boss Arthur Ryan will be wringing his hands too much.

The flames that lit up the sky above Primark's Leicestershire shed illuminated another quiet week for retail news, although most stories were generally gloomy. Carphone Warehouse was a rare exception, but other retailers, from Matalan to Signet, reported tough trading.

One man who was upbeat this week was Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose, who gave the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) conference in Belfast the type of speech that suggested M&S's interim results next week will not be bad at all.

Rose shied away from the confrontational approach taken by DSG International chief executive John Clare at the BCSC conference last year, instead talking through the M&S recovery like a man confident it was well under way.

His most interesting point was on the imbalance between supply and demand for retail space, which is likely to develop in the second half of this decade. Developers will be hoping more than most that the continuing slowdown eases before the huge raft of planned schemes start coming out of the ground - otherwise they may start feeling a slowdown of their own.