It’s amazing what a bit of sunshine can do for your outlook on life. But it seems it’s not just the weather making retailers feel more optimistic about 2012.
Speaking to John Lewis’s buying and brand director Peter Ruis at our Next Generation event last week, he hit the nail on the head when he said that this year, compared with 2011, retailers had a fighting chance to trade their way out of the gloom, being less restricted so far by the weather, or indeed by the bad timing of dates for Easter and the various bank holidays.
The survey results show that the majority of retailers are positive that this year their trading will be better than 2011, and a good number anticipate significant growth, especially in online and international markets, as you would expect.
Most interesting to me was the retailers’ views on what needed to be done to help the green shoots of recovery blossom. The Government, obviously, has a key role to play, and retailers seemed generally unimpressed with what was being done so far to assist them.
Although last week’s budget did include some measures to help low-income families – which will give them more money to spend on clothing and other goods – and some support for small businesses, there was nothing in there to set the fashion world alight.
In our survey retailers said they wanted the Government to introduce a preferential tax system – some said they thought a reform of business rates was needed, others support cutting VAT or dropping it altogether for smaller businesses. They also support legislation to free up parking in town centres, and the speeding up of measures to help save the high street, as well as altering the rental system – a major issue for multiples. Some suggested legislation on Sale periods, limiting them to certain times of the year to prevent flash Sales. This is not viable – it would illegally restrict free trade – but it does highlight the serious damage to some businesses that price promotions are doing.
Ultimately, our survey showed a lack of confidence in David Cameron’s Government so far – more than half said they didn’t support this Government or the previous one and only just over a quarter said they felt the Conservatives valued retail, which is a sad indictment of a party that is supposed to stand up for business.
In short, those that are doing well are doing so thanks to their own hard work and the fact that 2012 so far has not been beset by some of the issues 2011 introduced. But with extra support from the Government this sector might actually start to drive serious growth and help get the UK economy moving. Over to you Prime Minister.
- Drapers editor-in-chief / email@example.com