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Retail optimism lowest since 2012

A survey of the UK’s top retail chairmen has revealed that optimism for the future of the sector is at its lowest since 2012 as Brexit approaches.

The annual Retail Chairmen Survey conducted by advisory firm Korn Ferry revealed that 94% believe that the government is not doing enough to help the retail industry. The uncertainty of the terms that could be negotiated as the UK approaches the March 2018 deadline has meant that 90% of chairmen do not know what Brexit will mean for their business and 80% believe they are not ready for Brexit.

The full report, released today, spoke to 34 leading figures including Peter Williams from Boohoo, David Tyler from Sainsbury’s and Richard Pennycook of The Hut and Fenwick, who have provided additional commentary.

Business secretary Greg Clark has shown some acknowledgement of the difficulties faced by the retail sector, announcing at the Tory Party Conference this week that the government was considering changing business rates. However, many feel this is not enough.

“Many traditional retailers are fighting a battle on multiple fronts,” said Sarah Lim, managing director, Retail at Korn Ferry. “Brexit is the headline issue, but with multiple industry challenges, not least an unresolved issue on business rates, heightened competition from online players and an uneven tax system, the call-out to Government to listen and take action has never been louder.”

The report does highlight some positive sentiment too. It revealed that 74% anticipate growth in their companies this year, buoyed by online shopping, but with 79% predicting that consumers will be more cautious in the year ahead, 2019 could be a different story.



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