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Talking Business: It's all just a little bit of history repeating itself

Mary Anderson-Ford is the managing director of recruitment consultancy AquaRetail

Mary Anderson-Ford is the managing director of recruitment consultancy Aquaretail

Mary Anderson-Ford: “Do we miss the old days of meeting a friend for coffee and wandering the shops as we catch up?”

Fashion famously goes round in cycles. One minute we’re bidding a (not so) fond farewell to the mini dress because the maxi dress is in, the next we’re welcoming the midi length with open arms – in combination with flats or brogues. I’ve recently been observing how other areas in retailing seem to be going full circle too; an air of nostalgia seems to be the theme at the moment. Vinyl sales, for example, are at their highest since 1996, as we yearn for a taste of how things used to be. With such affection for days gone by, I wonder what could be next…

I proudly read the only real book by the poolside on holiday – among a sea of e-readers – and apparently I’m in good company with the news that Kindle sales have apparently collapsed, while book sales have risen by 5%. A fellow holidaymaker remarked that it was nice to actually see what people are reading as you are clueless with electronic readers.

At the tills, how many retailers are consciously replacing plastic carrier bags with brown paper ones? Primark have, of course, done it for years, but increasingly bags are eco-friendly – just as they used to be. Even my Tesco online shopping delivery has the vegetables in brown paper bags now.

I wonder if we’ll start to see a resurgence of physical shopping as opposed to the focus on online? Do we actually all miss the old days of meeting a friend for coffee and wandering the shops as we catch up? Those wine-fuelled lunches followed by a (perhaps ill-advised) purchase?

In the run-up to the election, London Mayor Boris Johnson visited my local town of Teddington – a high street famous for the flourishing independent retailers it hosts. This enclave positively embraces the unique and individual through a selection of homeware, fashion and gift emporiums. While they sit alongside major names like Tesco Metro and M&S Simply Food, there are no other chains to be seen. It’s an echo of years gone by, and proudly so.

So what might be next in this “let’s go round again” retailing merry-go-round? It would be lovely to see a marrying of all the new technological advances in payment methods and effective merchandising management alongside the great retail-as-a-day-out destination experience. And any shift back to a lifestyle where money is going into the tills and profits are climbing for our retailers seems like a great idea to me.

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