I have been listening and watching at the Retail Week conference in recent days.
The kings of the jungle were there, including Philip Green, who moaned about having to pay taxes for waste collection (go Uncut, go) and the new UK CEO of Tesco, Richard Brasher who speaks in an odd language from Planet Tesco – ‘our dreams are still alive but slightly less accessible than in boom times’.
But there were inspirational talks too, from people like Mark Constantine, co-founder of Lush.
Supermarkets continue to hoover up wider retail – growing from 35% of overall retail spend in 2000 to 43% in 2010.
And there is little cheer for the high street. The number of shop vacancies has doubled over the last two years – higher still in the North. And within five years, out of town shopping spending is predicted to overtake high street spend.
The one bright spark, according to Alan Giles, Chairman of Fat Face, is where local businesses and the local authority collaborate though proactive high street management. It helps to be distinctive, he says, and it helps to co-operate.