“The Ridiculous is no longer Unimaginable”

The other day I received an email saying that the 2016-2017 Annual Review of the Retail Think Tank was available.  It can be accessed and downloaded from here.

The Retail Think Tank is just over 10 years old, being conceived in 2006 by Helen Dickinson and Tim Denison.  They wanted to provide an ‘authoritative, credible and trusted window on what is really happening in retail and to develop thought leadership on the key areas influencing the future of retailing in the UK’. They succeeded.

Through a panel of experts (sorry Michael Gove but these people know stuff) they aim to provide a ‘balanced, considered and unbiased view of the state of the health of the retail sector’.

The Retail Think Tank has two main outputs; the Retail Health Index and a series of White Papers on various topics.  The Retail Health Index over the last 10 years is shown in the figure below.  The recessions (marks one and two) are clearly noted but so is the slow long and almost imperceptible recovery.  But in 2016 their index has stagnated.



Each output from the Retail Think Tank has an overall summary – the wisdom of the panel – and then individual contributors that led to the summary.  The quote at the head of this post is from Tim Denison’s contribution to the 2016-17 review and it neatly sums up the sense of shock over the last year.

So what does the panel say about 2016 and 2017?

  • The year ahead will be tough
  • Retail growth will stagnate
  • Inflation will gallop ahead
  • It won’t all be doom and gloom and some retailers will prosper

The ‘ridiculous’ however is that much of the headwinds we face is self-inflicted.  Whether it be Brexit potentially choking off markets, Black Friday killing margins, the pound collapsing driving up inflation or retailers losing sight of the consumer, some parts of the sector seem to have a death wish.  Retailers will have to be agile, change quickly and think the unimaginable, because if they don’t, others, including new competitors will.

If you haven’t checked out the Retail Think Tank you should.

RTT Cover

And of course today is an especially apt day to publish a post with this title.

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 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
This entry was posted in Black Friday, Brands, Competition, Consumer Change, European Union, International Retailing, Retail Change, Retail Health Index, Retail leadership, Retail Think Tank, Retailers, Store Closures and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “The Ridiculous is no longer Unimaginable”

  1. Great team at the Retail Think Tank!

  2. Tim Denison - RP says:

    Thanks for the piece, Leigh. We must meet up some time. Keep up the good work – I enjoy your blogs. Always worth a read

    Kind regards


  3. Nelson Blackley says:

    Many thanks for this link in your blogpost to the Retail ThinkTank Annual Review Leigh – some fascinating views about retail over the coming year!

  4. Ron Sutherland says:

    Cheers, Leigh. Fascinating insights, as usual.

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