Don’t talk about retail. More to the point, don’t talk about successful retail. The headlines demonstrate that the media has taken its latest victim and created a tremendous narrative in which to deliver it to the slaughter; ‘retail apocalypse’ being my favourite so far. As we continue to wade our way through the latest tranche of retail casualties in the press, alongside the increasingly exasperating Brexit negotiations, I for one was looking forward to silly season in the news. Water-skiing squirrels, anyone?
Yet, Christmas time equates to intensified national media interest in the sector, usually a PR’s dream. However, this year the narrative is as brutal as a Tarantino movie. Yet, as we go about our day-to-day jobs, we speak to a number of asset managers and centre teams who rave about how busy their malls are. Footfall is higher year on year, and although in some cases sales are slightly down, they are certainly not out. Knowing what we know, we can’t help but question the intensity of the media narrative.
The apocalypse is far from nigh. The naysayers simply have a stronger, and let’s be honest, easier platform. They have a more exciting tale in which to feed the media frenzy, without concern for the lives, jobs and stores that retailers and landlords must consider.
There’s no doubt that retail is in the throes of a rollercoaster change, and those that don’t jump on and enjoy the ride are being left behind. And although people are still pounding the streets to spend their pennies this Christmas, the click to brick debate rumbles on as our high streets and shopping centres get a bad rap – why just today we heard there are simply ‘too many shops’.
But, with a British stiff upper lip, the retail experts say the industry must put its best foot forward and customers first. And the PR experts? We say, for now, take some comfort in the knowledge that your battle may not be won in the media, but the war for thriving businesses seems far from over.
In the meantime, do we recommend putting your head above the parapet to fight the good fight for the retail sector in the media? The real question is, do the rewards of going against the tide outweigh the risks? If you have a strong argument, the stats to back it up, and the right forum for your debate, we say – go for it. Just be mindful of the headline-hungry Scrooges.