Making sense of the past seven days
It's a long time since a British retailer has aspired to replicate the world-famous standards of US retail pace-setter Nordstrom, but that, as we reveal in this week's issue, is what new House of Fraser boss John King would love to do.

It's a fantastic goal to have and, apart from anything else, throws into stark relief the relative poverty of ambition among some UK retailers. And now that House of Fraser is in the clutches of private equity, many people would have expected the primary focus to be on squeezing out efficiencies. There will clearly be much more to the reinvention of House of Fraser than that.

What is refreshing is the desire to replicate some of the very best standards in global retailing. If King gets halfway there he'll deserve a big pat on the back. And the audaciousness of the objective should enthuse everybody who works for House of Fraser. It's a fresh vision, it's exciting and it would involve the buy-in of every employee.

And, just maybe, it could be achievable. It costs time and energy to motivate a workforce and raise the performance bar, but it doesn't necessarily add to the financial cost base. Many frontline staff value the rewards of recognition and success just as much as they do their wage packet and they are the ones who will make King's dream come true - or dash it. It costs just as much to recruit a lacklustre member of staff as it does a good one and it certainly costs more to retain them, so to want the very best makes commercial sense.

If King can create a culture at House of Fraser of shared ambition, combined with great shops and great product, the department store group may well provide the raw material to do something genuinely exciting on the high street.

Despite some scepticism in the past few months about the outlook for private equity-backed retail deals, it seems there's still plenty of appetite. Other than the obvious distress situations that have prompted interest, the hot properties seem to be niche retailers. Evans Cycles and fashion group Americana are just two instances. According to banking sources, there are still piles of cash available to be pumped into the right acquisitions, so expect more action soon.