UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from The Great Debate UK:

UK recovery, but not on the high street

It was only a few days ago that George Osborne declared victory on economic malaise saying that the UK economy has turned a corner. The economic data has improved dramatically in the last six months, which gave Osborne a battering ram to launch a political attack on the Labour Party. Osborne used his moment in the sun to prove Ed Balls and all on the other side of the political bench wrong, saying that his austerity programme is right for Britain.

However, a little over 24 hours after Osborne’s speech a report from the Local Data Company made for uncomfortable reading as it detailed grim conditions on the UK’s high streets. High Street vacancy rates remain stubbornly high; out of 650 town centres in the UK the average vacancy rate is 14.1 percent, which is basically unchanged since February.

The regional breakdown was even more depressing, the vacancy rate in Wales is more than 17 percent, and Scotland’s rate is above the average. The worst case is Blackburn where more than a quarter of shops are vacant.

The decline of the British high street is nothing new. Shopping online is easier than ever with smartphones and tablets making it easier to shop on the move.  Interestingly enough, the latest retail sales data showed that the quantity of goods bought in the retail sector increased in the year to July by 3 percent, and the average weekly spend across the retail sector jumped to £7 billion from £6.7 billion in July 2012. So people in the UK are still shopping, but not on their high street.

Jam tomorrow – will you buy Marks and Spencer’s new sandwich?


As fans of Alice in Wonderland will know, it’s jam every other day — jam yesterday or jam tomorrow but never jam today. “All very confusing,” says Alice.

On Thursday, Marks and Spencer might make some of their customers wonder for a moment whether they too have walked into fantasy land. For February 26th is the day it introduces to its shelves a new product: the strawberry jam sandwich.

Did Stuart Rose get it wrong at M&S?


ms.jpgJust a year ago, Stuart Rose’s stock was riding high as the man who turned round Marks and Spencer but now he faces shareholder anger over controversial management changes, a big profit warning and a proposal to make him executive chairman as well as chief executive.

M&S shares lost 33 percent of their value last week after the warning.

Rose upset some analysts last week by announcing that head of food Steven Esom, who had been tipped as a potential successor, was leaving after only about a year in the job, following a sharply weaker performance at the food business.