With a general election set for 12 December 2019, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Helen Dickinson, welcomes a reform on business rates, asserting that “the next Government should reduce the tax burden further, through business rates reforms including scrapping ‘downwards transition’, which costs retailers £1.3 billion over five years, and introducing an ‘improvement relief’ to boost investment in retail locations.” However, a complication to this reform is that local councils now rely on business rates for about a third of their revenues, which is reportedly what held the Government back from making any radical changes to the system following the last large-scale review in 2015.
The BRC has also welcomed plans by the Government to ensure goods currently approved for sale across the UK and EU can continue to be traded after Brexit.
UK shoppers are expected to have spent a record £8.57 billion from Black Friday to Cyber Monday (29 November to 2 December), equating to an average of £2.48 million each minute of the four-day weekend. This may be due to Black Friday falling after payday, resulting in more than one-quarter of shoppers planning to bring forward their Christmas spend.
November saw the announcement that Mothercare’s UK business will be wound down by February 2020. Around 125 employees were made redundant the day after the retailer went into administration on 5 November 2019. All 79 stores are expected to close, resulting in 2,500 job losses.
Thousands more are facing redundancies, with the festive season looking bleak for retail workers due to further job cuts at retailers including Bonmarché, White Stuff, Asos, and Mamas & Papas as they undergo head office transformations and store-closure programmes.
The retail industry is calling for Government support as retailers across the UK cut head office roles in a bid to reduce costs and combat tough trading conditions. The CEO of a womenswear retailer said that the “Government addressing business rates quickly and significantly before more stores close; landlords sharing the pain and adjusting rents down; ending long lease terms with no breaks; turnover leases; and councils offering free parking”, would all assist in helping the high streets.
However, despite a particularly tough year, some Christmas cheer is forecast by leading market research analysis and intelligence agency Mintel, which predicts December retail sales to be worth £48.7 billion. This is a growth of +3.8% compared to December 2018 when sales hit £46.9 billion.
Debenhams has filled 7,000 Christmas jobs across its 165 UK stores, in order to offer better customer service during what is inevitably the busiest time of the year.
French luxury conglomerate LVMH has reached an agreement to buy US luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co for $16.2 billion (£12.58 billion). It is hoped the takeover will be finalised in 2020, subject to the approval of regulators and Tiffany shareholders. LVMH already owns 75 brands, including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi and Givenchy. It is said that the purchase will give LVMH a stronger foothold in the US and broaden its offerings in jewellery, with Tiffany commenting that the deal will ensure its long-term sustainability.
Burberry, the British luxury fashion house, has guaranteed all employees around the world (who have been with the brand for more than a year) at least 18 weeks of leave when they have a baby or adopt a child. The move equalises all paternity, maternity, adoption and partner leave in Burberry’s stores and offices. Erica Bourne, chief people officer, commented: “We believe our new parental leave policy, which is leading in the luxury industry, will make a significant difference to many of our colleagues around the world.”
The movement towards plant-based consumption has revolutionised the footwear industry. On World Vegan Day (1 November), the CEO of The Sole Supplier, George Sullivan, offered his guide to the best vegan sneakers on the market. Sullivan explained that sneakers are unsustainable as the majority of them are produced in China’s factories, which still mainly rely on fossil fuels. Veja is the ‘eco-it’ shoe brand of the moment after the Duchess of Sussex was spotted with a pair. The Loop Sneaker, designed by Stella McCartney, is stitched together without glue, so that the shoe can be completely dismantled and recycled. Sullivan advises that the most sustainable brands are B Corp certified, a certification awarded to companies that meet certain standards of social and environmental purpose.