Good day sunshine…..

There is a lot wrong with our society, there is a lot wrong with our economy, however , occasionally the negatives should be put into some perspective in order to shine a little Sunshine into our lives.

It could be said that this does not have a lot to do with detailed retail analysis. Loads of people might suggest that neither do any of my blogs. Yet the emotional state of an economically developed nation has a huge impact on consumer expenditure. Consequently anyone who as a consequence of reading this feels even marginally more positive and spends anything, no matter how small, I get to be personally fulfilled as having done my bit for improving the economy. For starters I am quids in, as I have just spent £8 I wouldn’t have otherwise spent !

I make no apologies for lifting some of these small shafts of sun directly out of an article by Times journalist – Alice Thompson.

The UK is still the fifth largest economy in the world. In 2016, it achieved its highest level of foreign direct investment, beating Germany, France and Spain, up 7 per cent on the previous year.

Unemployment is lower than at any time since Harold Wilson was prime minister.

We remain the most generous country in Europe in terms of private charitable donations, according to the World Giving Index.

While the Paradise Papers may make it sound as though the superrich are avoiding all tax obligations, most are not: the wealthiest I per cent of Britons, earning over £150,000 are paying 27 per cent of all income tax.

Education is improving. Britain is now home to the world’s top two universities, Oxford and Cambridge. The most deprived children are 43 per cent more likely to go to university than they were in 2009. There are also 1.8 million more children being taught in good or outstanding schools than there were in 2010.

In the arts, British musicians and singing artist singers , accounting for 17.1 per cent of the global music market.

In a world dominated by male political leaders we have a female prime minister and an array of high-powered female politicians, including Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Arlene Foster in Northern Ireland and Amber Rudd at the Home Office, with Cressida Dick running the Metropolitan Police, and London has a female fire chief. One of the world’s highest earning female business women, lives in Stoke and is the joint owner , with her brother of BET365 (albeit an online betting firm), earning nearly £200 million in 2016.

This country has become more integrated and cohesive in many ways. Our capital city has a Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, whose father was a bus driver(which he is keen to tell all who would listen-my words).

There were other items in the list but rather more subjective. But I can add a few objective facts of my own.

Approximately 1.4% of the U.K. landmass is covered by buildings, as defined by houses, factories, schools,hospitals, public buildings, shops, in other words virtually anything that is has been constructed and raised from the ground. A figure, I would suggest is well below most peoples perceptions.

The U.K. is the highest producer worldwide of wind energy , currently accounting for 11% of our total energy needs in 2016.

The list of British actors that dominate American drama seems endless…Damian Lewis, Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Hugh Laurie, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Dominic West, Keira Knightley, Ben Whishaw, Helen Mirren, Christian Bale………

Over 44% of London is covered in green ie parks and gardens etc, making it one of the greenest cities in the world. Last month Europe’s largest urban wetlands opened in East London.

Even in politics, whilst constantly under public scrutiny, the strongest impact by any extreme right wing Party is that of UKIP, which polled at most 12-13% prior to the EU referendum, dropping to under 3% when it was deemed to have done its job. Whilst in the most stable of our neighbours , France, Germany and the Netherlands, the current level of the extreme right wing parties swings between 12-20% of the electoral vote. Furthermore, with the possible resurgence of Berlusconi in Italy, it makes our current political scene look relatively benign , despite its somewhat inadequate performance.

As measured by deaths per million, alongside Sweden we have the safest roads in the world (by a large margin).

We have a world champion formula one racing driver, world champion heavy weight boxer, women’s cricket World Cup champions, both women’s football and rugby teams are amongst the world’s best . Many of the world’s best cyclists both male and female.

This is all well and good, it does nothing to address the disparities we have within our society and some of the bizarre political shenanigans that go to shape the country we live in. There are, however, sections of the U.K. population that believe life was much better during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Many of those were not actually born then and a large clump of those that were, have a very distorted view of the way things were . I think there is no harm at, occasionally, looking at what is good now, as well as examining and trying to right what is wrong.

I make no apologies to non U.K. readers( of which I know there a few) as it may seem like flag waving . But I believe it is true for nations to look to their strengths in order to help right the weaknesses and to help the weakest .

Be afraid…be very afraid….or not ?

Is this the future of retailing ?(click on link below)

Or is it this….

Or even this…

The first is a ‘staff’ free convenience store ,being developed, in China  . The second is vein (yes, as in ‘blood’) scanning under trial at Costcutter. And the third is a 17th century book shop in Canterbury. No , I don’t think so. Or rather they will be only a part of the future of retailing . Apart from not be able to build anymore 17th century shops, as I am sure loads of high street would want one, change is so rapid within retail it is not easy to see where it is going .

Visualising the air space just above your home stuffed full of drones delivering all manner of items, is not that comfortable. Online shopping, after twenty years, still under 20%.

Apart from the UK and Germany, market shares were comparatively low in many European countries. In 2015, the average online share of the European countries surveyed was 7.0%, 8.0% in 2016 and is expected to reach 8.8% in 2017. Figure 1 shows the UK online share was 16.8% in 2016 and is forecast to be 17.8% in 2017 (in 2010 it was around 9.4%). The countries with the highest online shares of their internal markets are: the UK (17.8% forecast for 2017)..

It would be naive to suggest that this will not continue to grow but it would also be naive to suggest that it will wipe out the High Street store.

The three examples have their own usp’s that should help reinvigorate the high street environment.

China Store 

The main benefits accrued are cost

Vein scanning

Security, convenience and cost saving

Canterbury book store

Environment, experience and expertise 

Quick puzzle….what do the first and last, potentially, have in common? Answer: they could both use the same technology as in the second .

Whilst knowing that the consumer is looking at spending more on experiences over and above product, they will still need to buy ‘product’. New shopping centres are adding more eating places, cinemas, casinos…..attracting the experience spend. Without the shops they cease to be shopping centres. Which may happen.  If it did some of the consumer spend will revert back to the High Street . 

Now here is my next theory. Within five maybe ten years, the best online operators will have reached their maturity , operationally and  consumer acceptance. Assuming they can all deliver a nano second after you order, even if you live in the Scottish Highlands, what would be the main point of difference amongst them ? They will all be selling the same stuff, they will have accumulated similar amounts of data analysing their target consumer, which surely only leaves price. If this happens then I can see that the creative retail entrepreneur will start to look at alternatives . I can see this alternative being a very different yet exciting High Street retail environment.

I have always welcomed and embraced  change (most of it). Retailing is going through, perhaps, its biggest change since the advent of the supermarket. There has been much pain, and there is pain to come. Yet I believe there will be a complete regeneration. Those who fear change tend to harp back to the ‘good old days’. A time when there was widespread discrimination of every type, women knew their place, housing with no inside toilets, awful pub food, rubbish coffee, sliced tasteless white bread, black and white tv,smog , only able to take fifty quid when you went abroad on holiday. Oh! and less I forget the ability to drive without worrying about drinking, no awareness of domestic abuse….ignorance was bliss…….‘Bloody ‘ell life wer’ great’.

We have a penchant for nostalgia, especially when society is undergoing much change . We can refer to the retail market to look for examples, the recent surge in demand for vinyl LPs(when many of those buyers don’t have turntables) , increase in the sale of printed books and old style confection . Traditional shopping has a future, I do not believe traditional retailing has .

Some of the very big high street retail fish in the U.K. market place have many problems. Much of which is embedded with the company culture and infrastructure. They are the ones who should be  really afraid.