Blog: Weak spending tackled at retail conference

Joe Ayling | 16 March 2011

just-style headed into London this morning (16 March) for the first day of Retail Week Conference 2011.

Speakers have so far stressed the ongoing pressure on UK consumers, but also mentioned the odd opportunity.

Of the clothing retailers here, CEOs of both New Look and Debenhams brushed off talk of a double-dip recession, but not without issuing some caution.

Speakers from other industries were also able to shed some light on a UK consumer market short of confidence.

For example, Andy Hornby, the boss of pharmaceutical giant Alliance Boots, opened the event by telling delegates that rising pressures on consumers, by way of rising mortgages, food and petrol prices, will last “a few years”.

He said that customer service and better cost management would go a long way to grasping the opportunities that remain.

Next up was Tesco's UK chief executive Richard Brasher, who again presented a rather bleak picture of UK consumer confidence.

However, knowing that consumer inside out, Brasher said, is crucial for retailers who want to grow.

It is also clear from this morning's session that further tools for survival will be online and international. On the latter, Goldman Sachs' asset management chairman Jim O'Neill predicted that Chinese imports are to overtake those into the US within five years.

Therefore, it is reassuring to know that many of the challenges facing apparel businesses are being felt by other industries too.

Check back on just-style later for further coverage of Retail Week Conference 2011.


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