Although I’ve worked with high street retail businesses for more than 30 years, my experience living in Italy more recently has reminded me of the critical contribution retailers make to the local community.
Italy has a two-speed retail scene, with hot spots such as Rome, Milan and Florence home to a host of international brands, while independents dominate elsewhere. With fewer multiples to compete against, Italian indies have not
been squeezed by the high street rents and rates that have stifled UK retailers, and the cultural differences in the way Italians shop have kept the high street as the hub.
Local sourcing and buying is really important to Italian consumers, who make shopping a daily ritual, not just the weekend leisure experience it is in the UK. This cultural difference means even small villages can support local retailers and maintain the high street as a community hub.
Many believe Italy is set to see the same growth in multiples as was experienced in the UK.
Greater choice is always good for the consumer, but I hope we can continue to also support our local independents who keep the heart of the community beating.
- Michael Hobbs, Chairman of retail executive search business Court & Spark Consulting. He lives mainly in Italy