This week, after many lengthy discussions, Sir Philip Green revealed that he has settled the BHS pension scheme for a voluntary sum of up to £363m.
He has apologised for the uncertainty caused to BHS pensioners, which he pointed out was never the intention when he sold the chain to Retail Acquisitions in March 2015. It is a relief for all concerned that this has now come to a satisfactory close.
But the BHS pension is not the only challenge facing the Arcadia boss. As exclusively revealed on drapersonline.com, there has been quite a churn of senior staff within the group of late, at Burton, Topshop/Topman and Miss Selfridge.
Arcadia’s brands are still dominant high street players and should have no difficulty attracting new talent. And promotions are still evident, as seen at Wallis, where Rachel King is now buying director. However, that amount of movement in senior roles in such a short time points to mounting pressure at the business. Arcadia’s brands sit in increasingly competitive sectors of the market and even Topshop – the jewel in Arcadia’s crown – is finding it harder to stay ahead of the pack.
In other news this week, Primark released a pre-close trading update showing that like-for-likes are expected to be up by 2% in its first half. Its first half was not without its challenges, of course, and Primark highlighted the impact the weakness of sterling against the US dollar has had on the business.
But what is continually impressive about Primark is its ability to survive without a transactional digital offer, in defiance of accepted wisdom. Its clear strategy and international expansion has allowed it to continue to grow with bricks and no clicks.
Primark does have an online presence – the website is content led and showcases the latest product through editorial features with links to find the nearest store. The “Primania” area on the site, on which customers had shared no fewer than 12,820 Primark “looks” as this comment went live, creates a community behind the brand and encourages sharing across social and digital channels.
It was clever of Primark to capitalise on the trend for posting outfits on social media and take ownership of the #Primania hashtag. Its core audience is very digitally active, and the retailer has found a way to interact and engage with them without taking a hit on margins.