Retail …has it anywhere to go?


Just occassionally, I read, hear, see a bit of news which for a fleeting second, says to me

bloody ‘ell, I said that would happen two years ago

And just fleetingly, I think ….I am Bloody good at this, should I have been a predictive analyst…or written a book like ‘Future Shock-Alvin Toffler 1970’ ….until rapid realization dumps me back to ground level , when I think about the hundreds of other predictions that I got, and still get, wrong.

So I am very wary of so called ‘experts’ in their field making predictions, when in my experience, they make as many bloomers. Yet, I have just read an article by Mary Portas, not someone I always agree with, but the essence of what she says resonating with some thoughts of my own, I felt they are worth examining .Without blowing my own trumpet, actually I will, one example she discusses , I highlighted and wrote about a couple of years ago (July 2018, to be exact) but will come back to that later.

I make no apologies for cutting and pasting Mary’s article , but it would be a waste of time just paraphrasing…..

It’s a new economy that businesses have to get used to, one that’s built on a new value system. If you look at the past 30 years, consumerism has been peaking and the whole infrastructure of retailers has been around who is the biggest, the fastest, the cheapest. It’s all been down to operations rather than an understanding of how people are living.

Big retailers will give you many reasons why the high street is failing and this won’t be among them. The first reason they give is the internet, the second is the economic climate, that most people are strapped for cash, and the third has been the uncertainty of Brexit.

Of course, all of these play a part, but the biggest reason has been that we’ve changed our value system as people. What we’ve come to realise as a society is that the tenets of capitalism, that ‘more equals better’, is not going to be better for us as people or for our planet.

The bit here I don’t agree with is the last sentence. Certainly, there is a proportion of society that I would agree with,but for the majority(who have a disposable income )I think it just a little more straightforward do I need more stuff?

However, the next short quote, I am in total agreement…

The businesses that can connect with people as people, not merely consumers, will start generating a whole new way of shopping.


A great example is Eat 17: a couple of lads from Walthamstow [north-east London] saw the local Spar and thought, “We can do something with this.” They realised there was not much money in the area, so they kept the low-priced stuff, but they also started to work with small, independent producers. They get their sausages from the local butcher and they get the local florist to deliver. And they’ve created this brilliant supermarket. There’s a space where people can sit and eat too, instead of a dodgy cafe, they get the greatest street food vendors to come.

Now areas like Walthamstow will pick up and you’ll suddenly notice that a chain shop has come in because Eat 17 has created the footfall. They’ve created the place to go.


….These are the new anchors of the high street. Instead of “Oh, we have to get a Marks & Spencer or a Debenhams in here”, the new anchors won’t even be all retail, they could be a yoga studio, a crèche, community spaces with a socialising function. So yes, we’re going to have less retail, but we’re going to have better retail and better places to connect.


Eat17, was the core of my post back in July 2018. But I have seen it happen more recently and in other areas. In my own local shopping parade , there is a new deli, owned by a Dutch guy, who in one year has done exactly what Portas is talking about. I am not sure they are in this order but he certainly focuses on the following tenets….

What is the triple bottom line and why is it important?

The triple bottom line is people, planet, profit, in that order. Put your people first, because the planet will continue without us, but if we want to be on it, we need to change. We need to understand how we’re eating, how we’re travelling and how we’re buying. Put people first and it will be us that can make that change happen. And this means both people in your business and people outside your business. Not consumers or staff: People.

Result is success and other local retailers taking note.

Mary Portas, goes on to say that the likes of House of Fraser failed and Marks & Spencer’s are struggling as they contact to operate on the premise that the stores were places for moving stock. That, clearly, is no longer the case. It is much more difficult for the High Street multiple to engage with the consumer in the same way that the independent can. Which is why , for the first time for a long,long time that the Independent has an opportunity to be one step ahead.

Having just spent a week at a trade show talking to retailers, it is very evident that the creative and forwarding looking retailer is beginning to understand this . Only a couple of weeks ago the High Street of the year(as awarded by the, a Government initiative) was a small town in the Valleys in South Wales, Treorchy. An area not normally associated with retail innovation. It was achieved by a large number of independent Retailers working and engaging with their local consumers.

As to my own industry, ie party, the signs are clearly there. Without change there is nowhere for the retailer to go….At the same time the supply chain needs to understand where they want to be and how they want to get there.