There are not many reasons for feeling sorry for Philip Green (see my earlier blogs here here and here and those were before the latest American and other revelations), but the fact that he is in such a weakened state that even the property owners and landlords are almost getting the better of him comes close to one (well, not really). Arcadia teetered on the brink yesterday as some landlords refuse to meet his demands, but in the end he lived to fight on, even if he did have to put his hand in his own pocket.
In an interview this morning on the Radio 4 Today programme, Philip Green was his customary charming self and seemingly in denial still. But he did rightly say that retailing had changed fundamentally now. That does then beg the question as to whether these CVAs for Arcadia will be enough to save the business, as dramatic as they are? Is closing 50 stores the only shot in the locker? If so, as I have argued before, I don’t see a positive future. What is the compelling offer for the customer?
CVAs have become all the range; landlords and property owners have been all but ordered to wind their ‘greed’ in and to take a ‘haircut’ (difficult if you are bald already) and there is a view that the price of the retail crisis/over expansion is being paid by those left holding the shop portfolio. The real cost of course is paid by those who lose their jobs or their pensions, but that seems often lost in the debate of who suffers more, the landlords or the retailers? There is also a cascading impact on other trading retailers who want at least the same terms and so a downward spiral to e new equilibrium continues.
It does seem that this has seeped into public debate as well. The so-called ‘crisis of the high street’ has seen public media commentary levels (well, volume) rise and issues of closed stores, CVAs, property greed all come to the fore.
Heading off for the train the other morning and walking through Stirling town centre I spotted that the Edinburgh Woollen Mill store had ‘Closing Down Sale’ posters in its windows. Closer inspection saw ‘subject to landlord negotiations’ across the signs. The photograph below shows this.
Now, I was not sure what to make of this and being inherently cynical, I immediately assumed it was a play to allow the ‘closing down’ claim which will make customers feel there must be real bargains around. My cynicism might be misplaced; but then maybe not. After all why tell customers you are in negotiations if you are not (or if you are?)?
Various twitter exchanges stepped up and pointed to other examples across the country. Some of these (and not all are Edinburgh Woollen Mill) have been in this ‘closing down’ mode since before Christmas apparently. Such signs are not uncommon.
If this is real then it simply expresses the difficult relationships in the sector currently. But why bother telling customers? If it is not real then it simply depresses me further – is this really the best our retail management and owners can do? Are customers taken in by such things? The “death of the high street” has many parents, but we sometimes overlook bad retail management and operations as a factor.