Retail has always been a highly dynamic industry, intensely competitive and fighting for a share of the wider consumer spending pot. This is an industry used to dealing with a constant diet of change. However, the change we are seeing today is far more profound than anything the past has thrown up. We are now seeing by far the most challenging period in retail history. A reshaping of the industry’s structure and economics is unfolding, and most of the real change is yet to happen.

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Monthly Archives: September 2017

Promotional Intelligence

2017 Week 39

Non-food retailers on promotion this week 58%
Equivalent for same week last year: 64%
  • Last week we correctly called the bottom of the lower discounting trend (albeit still at 50%) and this week’s headline index is up at 58%, en route to higher ground

  • Fashion and department stores this week are trading more strongly versus week 39 last year and this has driven a lower trend year-on-year …
  • … nevertheless, both sectors posted strongly increased promos this week

  • Last year’s trend is points the likely way forward. The promo index will hit around 65% next week, powered by more fashion and department stores returning to promotions
  • However, it is worth noting that fashion is markedly lower year-on-year. This week’s milder weather will have hit Autumn sales – next week’s fashion index may reflect how badly.

** We track promotions daily by sector and company to support promotional optimisation programmes – for details contact

Promotional Intelligence

2017 Week 38

Non-food retailers on promotion this week 51%
Equivalent for same week last year: 56%
  • The headline index remains unchanged versus last week but importantly, continues to track below 2016 after 4 weeks being above.

  • Sectors like department stores, home furnishings and DIY all posted discounting declines but fashion increased a little on last week
  • While the value and middle market sectors have gone up, the headline index is driven down by a strong reduction in premium sector promos

  • We expect a clear rise in next week’s index, driven particularly by fashion retailers, supported by department stores

** We track promotions daily by sector and company to support promotional optimisation programmes – for details contact

Promotional Intelligence

2017 Week 37

Non-food retailers on promotion this week: 51%
Equivalent for same week last year: 53%
  • This week’s index has dropped below the YoY comparison for the first time since mid-July.
  • The headline index has not dipped below 50% since the end of April

  • Fashion returning to full margin continues to drive promotions down. At 41%, this is the second lowest posted this year, after Week 17
  • Department stores, footwear and stationery have also recorded lower discounting.

  • This week is likely to be the low point. We expect promotions to start picking up over the coming weeks as we move into the Autumn.
  • Key sectors like fashion and department stores will move back on promotion, repeating their 2016 promotional calendars

** We track promotions daily by sector and company to support promotional optimisation programmes – for details contact

Educating Archie – a new chapter at M&S?

While Archie Norman has only just begun his new job as Chairman of M&S, he will have spent months already visiting stores, talking to people, and thinking. I’m certain that will have already concluded that the similarities between Marks and Asda are virtually zero and, hopefully, that turning M&S around will be a vastly bigger task than it was at Asda. What else?

Phrases like “turnaround specialist” are very unhelpful. A brilliant classical musician will have to play the music written, more or less. M&S sells food, but not remotely like Asda, nor can it. Archie ran Asda when Aldi was arriving here, decades before it became big enough to undermine Asda’s low price positioning. And the other majors were still playing catch-up to Asda in superstores and edge-of-town trading. M&S food is niche, premium and top-up.

The fulcrum of M&S as a business has always been womenswear, and this remains just as true today. Get that right and the rest will follow. Get it wrong and the rest is stymied in trading terms, and it’s been wrong for many years. Turning womenswear round should not be the goal. Only goals that can be achieved should be set in my view, and here the key is to stem the decline. The key to this is all about the product: its quality, its styling and its relevance to core customers. Price is not a major issue – a piece is not made more relevant if it’s cheaper. How committed is M&S to this? Recent body language in store in and in key decisions suggests not nowhere near enough.

Another critical difference is that at Asda, Archie was CEO. Here he has a non-executive role…in theory anyway. Going from a Chairman with no retail skills at all to one with a glittering reputation will be a steep learning process for Archie and Steve Rowe.

** We advise retailers on strategy and analytics. We also track promotional activity across the UK’s key retailers. Get in touch for details

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