Retailer of the Year

I began reading Retail Week when it first started out and have kept up the practice. It has become a great source of current information and occasionally some jolting and thought-provoking commentary or feature. As is has developed its reputation, so it has become established and its accolades have a degree of status in the sector.

So, I was interested in their views of the Retailer of the Year. This year will be the 20th Retail Week awards (it really seems to be anniversary season) and in a feature in Retail Week  a couple of weeks ago the roll-call of past winners of Retailer of the Year was reproduced:

1996 Tesco
1997 Tesco
1998 B&Q
1999 Debenhams
2000 Tesco
2001 Matalan
2002 Next
2003 Argos
2004 Morrisons
2005 Tesco
2006 Carphone Warehouse
2007 John Lewis
2008 Morrisons
2009 Morrisons
2010 Primark
2011 John Lewis
2012 Burberry
2013 John Lewis
2014 Aldi

I don’t know what you feel about this list – and hindsight is of course a wonderful thing – but it is a little curate’s egg for me.

Tesco have won 4 times in 19 years – a ‘market share’ of 21%, which is where they seem to be heading! This seems about right, as does the lack of them winning since 2005. But Morrisons winning 3 times, all in the last ten years, seems really odd. John Lewis running up 3 wins is also about right, but why have Next not won since 2002? Morrisons, John Lewis and Tesco are the multiple winners, with 10 of the 19 ‘gongs’. The others have been isolated successes.

Of these ‘one-cap wonders’ (to date anyhow), a theme, albeit intermittent, is discount, with Matalan, Primark and Aldi. Fashion gets a look in with Burberry and Next and electronics with Carphone Warehouse. But overall, the list seems a little mundane and possibly a little short-sighted at times. Are these really the game changers of the last 20 years and have they really been Retailer of the Year? Where are the internet disrupters of Amazon, e-Bay or Asos? Where are the fast fashion market remakes? And so on?

So what would alternative lists look like? If we stripped out the ‘big boys and girls’, which is what this list seems to be based on, and focused on store chains under 30 strong then who’d be in? What would a Scottish version look like or an independent version? (maybe that’ll be one and the same three weeks today?) We could also muse about the Worst Retailer of the Year, or the ones that have been truly value-destructive?

Retailer of the Year is of course something of the moment, and does not really mean that much other than an excuse to get dressed up and party (this list I think shows that), but it is interesting to reflect on who has had the biggest impact over this time and whether they are on this list. Who’d win awards for you?

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in John Lewis Partnership, Market Shares, Pound Shops, Retail Economy, Retailers, Tesco and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Retailer of the Year

  1. Tim stone says:

    Hi Leigh,
    How are you?
    Things may have changed since I was a student, but the worst retailer (particularly from about 1995 – 1999 and beyond) that would most likely appear in a retrospective list would surely be the UoS campus supermarket!?
    Hope life is treating you well.
    All the best,

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