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So retail is dead, or is it?

February 1, 2013
Michael Taylor

All the recent headlines in the retail world, understandably, have been topping the stories of the collapse of Comet, HMV, Jessops and JJB Sports. It has led to a stream of punditry, all predicting the end of the retail world as we know it.

You could even be left wondering why a website about ‘Growth’ is even talking about retail. Well, we are a nation of shopkeepers, and there is still plenty of opportunity out there.

Research from Verdict estimates that 12 per cent of retail sales will be online, that has clearly taken its toll.

Barcodes

But take the year on year figures – sure, they reveal that from one year to the next the situation has been flat, or shown a small increase, but then when you factor in all of the businesses that have closed someone somewhere is growing.

It is said that products that can be bought online are the most at risk. But something else is going on here. Apple stores aren’t just shops that sell computers, but an interactive experience. Ikea is a day out for many. It is about selling an experience rather than commodity products.

I know from businesses I’ve been working with recently that many others are looking at enhancing the experience that can draw businesses into stores.

Take two businesses in the Fast Track 100 – a league table of the fastest growing businesses in the country. Plenty have a retail element – some of them are even primarily bricks and mortar retailers.

Those Cath Kidston stores with the distinctive fashion and household accessories, from polka-dot shopping bags to floral-patterned wallpaper, furniture and clothing are now up to 44 shops and concessions in Britain, two shops in Ireland, 19 in Japan and six in South Korea. Sales have been growing 52 per cent a year, from £19.2m in 2008 to an annualised £67.3m in 2011.

According to Retail Week, during December the retailer generated 22 per cent of its sales online. It also introduced a click-and-collect service, which accounted for approximately 10 per cent of online sales.

And those young people in their foppish tweeds are likely to have shopped at Jack Wills with 73 stores, concessions and outlets in towns across Britain and even in the north east of America.  Total sales grew, by 32 per cent to £120.1m last year, driven by 29 new shops across the world.

None of that is gloss over the challenges either of those businesses are experiencing – and Jack Wills has made some important changes of direction recently, but it does show there is capacity for innovation and growth in selling goods to the British consumer.

Brent Hoberman, founder of Lastminute.com, who knows a thing or two about disrupting retail models, said in the Financial Times this week:

“There will be some losers. There always are when technological change accelerates. High streets will continue to have vacancies, some may even become retail vacuums, with social and economic consequences. But their fate is not as gloomy as some believe. As rents decline, other occupants will be able to move in to the space left by obsolete retailers. Schools, houses and community centres could return, thereby rebuilding social capital.”

GrowthAccelerator coaches and growth managers are keen to help businesses in all kinds of sectors, including retail. They assist companies and business owners with a bespoke coaching service that enables them to focus on what matters to grow the business, whatever the level of negative background noise.

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