What a week in Retail

Austin Reed and BHS – both once pillars of the high street have called in the administrators.

Whilst they are both very different businesses and management controversies aside, it strikes me that they both made the same fatal mistake – they did not pace with the ever changing landscape of retail.

The constant threat of new competitors, the Moss Bross, M&S and TM Lewin or Charles Tyrwhitt to mention just a few. The battle to keep margins down. You simply need to signup to Charles Tyrwhitt email newsletter to witness the almost daily barrage of emails that entice you into the online shop.

And the unstoppable march of the internet that has made clicks & mortar a very different proposition.

Moving with the times in terms of style has also been mentioned as a criticism against both retailers. Charles Tyrwhitt acts more quickly towards the demand for new styles.

There was an interesting quote from Graham Soult, retail consultant at Souls Retail View.

“Many of the remaining retailers on the UK high street that have failed to move with the times, or that have lost their raison d’etre, have already been culled – either years ago, like C&A, or certainly since 2008 (JJB, Borders, Zavvi, Ethel Austin and the like).

“So, BHS is the last of a pre-digital generation, in a way.”

In further news, BRC have released the latest data in the number of full-time retail jobs. It would seem that the first quarter of 2016 edged down by 0.9% year-on-year.

Most likely this links to the drop in outlets of 0.5% compared with the same quarter in 2015.

EU consumer search for UK brands

The British Retail consortium has for many years teamed up with Google to measures changes and trends in the growth of retail search terms over time. This means that every time someone in the UK searches for a product it gets counted towards the data.

Here are some of the highlights

  • Retail search volumes grew 52% in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same quarter in 2015.
  • Mobile Search volumes grew 50% in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same quarter in 2015.
  • Beauty products were the most searched sector by EU consumers on mobile devices, up 91% in Q1 2016.
  • Search for Department Stores was also a up 75% in Q1 2016 on mobile.

Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC Chief Executive, said:
“Today’s figures provide further evidence that the EU is an increasingly important market for UK retailers…”

Martijn Bertisen, Retail Director, Google, said:
“UK brands continue to drive interest from the rest of Europe: particularly our department stores and our beauty retailers”

Placing these stats in the context of a BREXIT is interesting.  It adds to what is always obvious that Europe wants or for that matter needs to trade with the UK.  We have stuff to sell that they want to buy.  If a BREXIT does do ahead it will be interesting to see if it throws up a barrier or whether EU consumers still want to buy things for this Nation of Shopkeepers.