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Next's Lord Wolfson on fighting market stagnation

“The UK has opted for a form of stagnation and if we do nothing the economy is going to grind to a halt,” was Next chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson’s rallying cry to fellow retailers at last night’s Annual Retail Lecture held by the British Retail Consortium.

He argued that planning regulations for high streets, transport and housing are hindering future growth and suggested that changes to policies could add between 3-5% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the UK.

His tips for change are:

  • Don’t try to use the planning system to eliminate or contain your competition. He believed that fighting each other is not the best way to get change to a system.
  • Don’t always ask trade bodies to always ask for tax cuts. He likened it to a “circle of pickpockets” where industries are trying to fund cuts by making cuts elsewhere so no-one wins.
  • Do fight your corner, particularly in relation to regulation and planning. “Apply anyway,” he said. “We often take our ideas to the public first before you go to planning so the line of least resistance is to say yes rather than no.”
  • Do make your argument wherever you can. He advised taking a public platform wherever possible, at industry or local events.

He said that growth is uncomfortable and challenging as it is going against the norm, but the alternative is “comfortable but slow decline”.

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