The shape of things to come for retailers in 2011 was evident in this week’s updates from Next and HMV.
Each revealed how circumstances had conspired to undermine peak trading, but the results will be very different. Next put the value of sales lost because of the snow at £22m, but full-year profits will be on target.
HMV meanwhile faces a challenging covenant test, is to shut 60 shops and warned that profits will scrape in at the low end of expectations.
The divergence will be replicated across retail this year. Retailers such as HMV face more problems than bad weather and the dull spending environment that all store groups must contend with.
The entertainment group and others must confront the ongoing structural shift in their markets resulting from the migration of sales online and the growing power of the grocers. How - and whether - that challenge can be met will be one of the most fascinating stories of the year.
More widely, retailers can learn from Next, which is admired for its efficiency and consummate planning. The skills behind the shopfront, as well as the product inside, will be more critical than ever to retail success or failure in this toughest of years.
New year honours
Congratulations to Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin and Lush entrepreneurs Mark and Margaret Constantine, whose retailing success was recognised in the New Year Honours List.
Their businesses, a quirky fashion firm and an ethical cosmetics chain, may be very different but are both testament to the verve and energy that characterises retail.
Ted Baker was launched in the late 1980s and in little more than 20 years has carved out a distinctive position not just in the UK but overseas. Similarly Lush, which opened its first shop in the mid-1990s, now has more than 700 stores in 44 countries.
There is lots of talk these days about the dominance of retail giants or monocultural high streets. But the success of Ted Baker and Lush is evidence that good businesses will survive and thrive, and a tribute to the combination of commercial nous and creativity that puts British retail among the best in the world.