September may or may not be the cruellest month, though at Stirling it does signify an influx of students back to the University with assignments and examinations ahead of them. September for me, in recent years, has signified success and graduation in Singapore of our undergraduate, MBA and PhD students from our programmes based there.
This year with Singapore graduation, teaching on our overseas programmes and some investigation of markets in Eastern Malaysia and Singapore, I’ve been away for three weeks, so have spent this last week catching up on retail stories.
So what caught my eye?
Internationalisation continues to rumble away. In Singapore the dying days of Carrefour saw the stores looking like empty barns. Home Depot announced they were giving up on China, but in a counterbalance Boots invested in a major Chinese distribution deal. Victoria’s Secret opened in London, adding to what is becoming an American fashion invasion of the UK. And then India, at a national level, decided to open up their retail market; though we will see how this plays out at the state level. If India is the next China, there’ll still be winners and losers.
Retail sales decline and poor trading performance saw further casualties in the UK. Julian Graves closed, JJB Sports continued its spiral down and even Burberry saw a slow down (though through overseas sales). It continues to be tough on the high street and retail parks, exacerbated by the on-going recession, the wonderful summer we’ve had and the TV must-see of the Olympics and Paralympics. But even Singapore saw a retail decline in July, showing that worldwide issues abound. Though there, sales at Changi Airport were well up, and coming back through T5 at Heathrow it does seem that airports are more than ever shopping centres with attached runways.
Then there’s Christmas to look forward to; though if you shop in Harrods and their grotto you may already be fed up with it. Our local Tesco has already introduced Christmas lines; it really is getting out of hand. More interesting perhaps is the question of whether with lots of retail space being available, retailers will explode the numbers of pop-up shops this year and perhaps use the opportunity to do something different and exciting? Let’s hope so; if JLP can do pop-up in Exeter ahead of their main store opening, then surely more opportunities and chances can be taken and high streets and centres brightened up by corporate and independent innovation.