Another day, another raft of negative retail news. Even so, it’s clear that the market still thinks this all may be cyclical, or a few weak businesses. This is structural and systemic. I have been warning for some time the end of “build it and they will come” was nigh. Generations of demand exceeding supply has reversed, with massive consequences.
Virtually no retailer will be able to post trading results as good as their own historical ones. Forget year-on-year performance. Companies should be judged against their peers. Are they winning or losing share? This will determine whether they will survive this turmoil and if so, what shape they’ll be in. Relying solely on a CVA, or any other cost-focused process, is nowhere near enough.
Appearances can mislead. The symptoms of most ailing retailers appear to be around the costs. Reducing rents, impose discounts on suppliers and get rid of some staff – most of this misses the point and in doing so, simply delays the inevitable. Weak sales revenues is the major cause of retail distress. Retail propositions that worked OK in a growth market are found wanting in a static one. And this static market will remain so for some time.
As I have been arguing in recent Blogs, any restructure in this market must begin with the top line. In any business, your cost line must surely be dictated by what is required to drive the revenue line? So common sense says that revisiting the fundamentals of a business, only the sales line can tell you what costs should look like. Simply randomly cutting costs and leaving the proposition where it is treats the symptoms but ignores the root causes.
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