High Street queen Mary Portas says retail’s race to the bottom is finally over

Wednesday 09 November 2022 11:03 am

Retail guru Mary Portas told City AM today that “we are experiencing profound change in the way we live, buy and sell.”

With next year fast approaching, now is the time for retailers to take stock of 2022 and plan for the year ahead.

Against a turbulent backdrop, with 2022 dubbed a ‘permanent crisis’ by the Collins dictionary, British independent retailers are hopeful for a more successful 2023 with almost half expecting their revenue and profits to rise next year, according to new research from Ankorstore. Morning.

However, many retailers may not be able to enjoy the promise and hope of 2023 without immediate and significant support, as the realities of the cost of living crisis and raging inflation bite into them.

In fact, just a few hours ago Made.com confirmed has gone into administration and has sold its brand, website and intellectual property rights. Next.

many reasons to AM City to sit down with the ‘Queen of Retail’, or Madam High Street, retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas, to find out what the retail veteran has to say about the current state of the game, and to get up close to the trends and challenges facing the sector. as we gradually approach 2023.

First, inflation is hitting retailers hard and a Christmas drop in spending is expected. How do you see High Street this winter, Mary?

I think people will buy more carefully, a little less, but they will still spend. Inclusive pricing strategies are key. Awareness of sustainability and provenance is also becoming more important, so take advantage of that. And the other great driver of Christmas, of course, is joy. Retailers need to think about how they offer that.

“It’s not just about price anymore. We have come out of the ‘race to the bottom’ period”.

Maria Gates

For consumers looking to spend, high quality is the second most important attribute, after price, when thinking about what they want from their shopping experiences in the coming year. How will this affect the High Street? Can we expect more Poundlands, Icelands and other low budget players?

In the future, retail must offer a new type of value. It’s not just about price anymore. We have come out of the ‘race to the bottom’ period. Now we are more considerate of what we buy. We want to buy better. And so retailers need to think about offering value that is delivered on many levels.

As inflation rises and the cost of living crisis rages on, are sustainability, locally sourced products and more personalized shopping experiences taking a backseat?

No. We are experiencing a profound change in the way we live, buy and sell. All the research tells us that people want to shop in a way that reflects their social and environmental values. Of course, you’ll get the retailers, and the shoppers, who don’t care. But the switch to buy better is not a trend. It is a commercial reality.

Speaking of business realities, buy now, pay later services are on the rise. How do you see this trend?

It is certainly here to stay. And in a way, it’s nothing new. Our grandparents could have used the pawn shop. Our parents bought with catalogs or bought at tick. And in the Christmas period, we all experience disproportionate pressure on our expenses, so there is no doubt that BNPL can be useful.

To spread costs?

Yes, for many people, it is a vital way to spread the cost. But there is a check on this: we need some kind of structure to ensure that people don’t spend too much using these services. We know where that got us in the past.

Living and Giving - Mary Portas Photocall
Mary Portas told City AM that British retailers need immediate support from the government.

Finally, a staggering 97 per cent of independent UK retailers believe the government has not provided enough support amid the ongoing ongoing crisis, according to an Ankorstore study published today. What is your position?

with retailers. The government shows no signs of understanding the potential impact of all this. Retailers are playing their part by pivoting and innovating. People are doing their part by shopping locally. But the government must also act.

Virtually every retailer is calling on the government to take action in next week’s budget to preserve Britain’s high streets. Do you think that is necessary? What would happen if they didn’t?

Yes, action is certainly needed. Nearly half of retailers say they will have to close or consider closing if help is not offered, and that is potentially devastating not only to our main streets but to our communities as well.

“Independent retail is not all about bricks and mortar. It’s about people, community and connection.”

Maria Gates

We were powerfully reminded of that during Covid. If retailers fail at the rate this research suggests, our communities, and the people in them, will be greatly affected.

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