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Editor’s Comment: Retailers fight back against tough market conditions

It’s no secret that the market is tough. Brexit, rising rents and rates, digital evolution and changing consumer behaviours have created a challenging period for many fashion retailers.

However, it’s encouraging to see that retailers are fighting back. The news this week has highlighted several internal objectives that retailers are working towards to help them adapt to today’s market.

Marks & Spencer has spotted a knowledge gap in its business and is working with Decoded to create an academy to train staff in data skills.

Big data is a term that has been thrown around for a while now, but the key to working with the bundles of data now generated by digital is learning how to decipher it to make strategic business decisions.

M&S has previously been accused of being digitally behind the times, so nurturing these skills within the business should not only improve its digital transformation but could also start to make the business more appealing to new digital talent as the opportunities become more apparent.

Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher has highlighted again that improving product is at the heart of its future fashion strategy. Bucher believes streamlining its Designers at Debenhams offer – as well as improving overall product quality – will drive customers back to the department store.

Alongside retailers making changes within their own businesses, Next chief executive Lord Wolfson has also spoken out this week, calling for the government to support the sector regarding one of the industry’s biggest gripes: business rates. Wolfson highlights that the government needs to reform business rates to align with the reality of today’s market.

It’s a cry we hear repeatedly at Drapers and one we would like to back, working with the industry to be its voice. Whether it’s a business-rates freeze, a shift in how rates are calculated, or a call to even the playing field between online and offline retailers, tell us what changes you would like to see. How should business rates be assessed and what can be done to improve the current system? I’d love to hear your thoughts – please email me at

Yes, trading is tough, but continuing to make changes to stay relevant in today’s market, alongside petitioning the government to back the retail sector, will keep retailers fighting fit for the future.



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