It has been a bleak winter in so many ways, but now the daffodils are making a very late show and that is cheering us all up – as well as selling well at the fresh food and flowers counter. Retailers told me all the time this winter how bad it has been with people talking only about benefit cuts for working families, rising unemployment in the public sector and rising fuel bills – often now taking 20% of a poorer family’s income. And then it was too windy, wet and freezing to want to go to the shops or restaurants anyway.
So where are the “virtual daffodils” in the economy? Well I see some of them particularly around discretionary spending.
- There is a continuing spread of the Coffee Munchkins – my Costa Coffee franchisees are enjoying growth into rural and market towns that have rarely seen any new brands except the Co-op and the national banks.
- And then there are unusual food retailers doing well. Local brand “Frurt” frozen yogurt now has 4 outlets in Manchester and again trading well in areas that have not seen successful retailers in a decade.
- The effect of increasing energy costs and high business rates on smaller occupiers – gradually there are signs that rents have fallen to nearly nil where these are impacting on old fashioned or badly maintained parades or buildings. In the end the better prepared landlord will have to invest to improve the external appearance and insulation of old buildings.
- A car parts manufacturer is having to take on lots more space as it is now a “tier one” supplier to Jaguar and this will then lead to more recruitment in the summer.
Every case is different but there are clear trends away from high street buying to “sofa retail” on line. So 2013 will definitely be a challenge for all our clients, but the best will continue to rise to the top. I see that even UK’s proud Scotch whisky exports are slightly higher in 2012 at £4.2bn than in 2011. This is despite drops of over 20% to Eurozone consumers in France and Spain, while significantly increasing in Singapore and India. We all have to look for new customers and markets – sometimes in surprising places.