As my relative silence over the last month might have indicated, I have been away for a few weeks rest and recuperation. Catching up is always interesting, especially as the fall out from Christmas continues. Quite a few things have been happening and I will try to pick up on some of these in the coming weeks. Three things caught my eye in terms in Scotland as I wade through websites, magazines and emails from colleagues and others.
Whilst it is easy to be sucked into the doom and gloom around retailing in Scotland – and there is certainly enough of it to be sucked in to – there are also success stories. Whilst d2 may not be around for much more, Retail Week ran a story and feature about the huge success of the new – and first – Primark in Edinburgh on Princes Street and what a successful launch it has been. Good retailers in great locations are always going to be in demand and there are successes, large and small, out there.
Secondly, it was sad to read of the ending of David Sands – not personally of course, but the eponymous firm. David Sands has been around for 200 years, this year, but has, subject to government approval, been taken over by the Co-operative Group. Fife will not seem the same without David Sands red fascia. It is symptomatic of the continuing demand for space in the convenience market. One does wonder however about the impact on the head office and distribution staff in due course.
And the third thing that caught my eye was the report launched by the Scottish Retail Consortium at its recent Parliamentary Reception – Retail: Serving Scotland’s Communities. This short report makes the case for retailing in the Scottish economy – again (politicians have short attention spans sometimes) – and is very welcome. As Primark and David Sands amongst many others show, in their different ways, the changing nature of retailing means that we need always to consider what is going on, attempt to measure and understand it, and continue to seek ways to recognise the contribution that all forms of retailing make to Scotland.
The conclusion of the report may bear repeating:
“Scottish retailing is at a crossroads. It is currently facing significant challenges, with increasingly cost-conscious consumers combined with rising input and operational costs. The rise of internet retailing could represent a major opportunity to access international markets with high-quality Scottish produce, serviced by highly skilled staff, if Scotland offers a low-cost easy operating environment. A burgeoning private sector, creating new jobs in Scottish businesses small and large would support renewed growth, particularly in the high-service food and nonfood markets.
On the other hand, increasing regulatory burdens, high government-driven operating costs and continued economic uncertainty could accelerate current trends of falling footfall, store occupancy and retail employment … public policy decisions will be crucial in determining which path is open to Scottish retail, the 240, ooo people it employs directly, and the many more it supports in Scotland’s other major economic sector”.
At a time when putting at least one question to the Scottish public seems to be in vogue, it might be pertinent to ask again, how might we best support the sorts of retailing we need and want in Scotland?