Locking the Stable Door
Posted by: FSPRetail , 23 February 2010
The proportion of UK multiple retailers trading unsustainably has increased from around 23% last year to 28% this year. Furthermore, the location of the stores of “at risk” retailers, and the reasons for their financial stress, are now different. Retailers are categorised as “at risk” if the ratio of gross profit on sales to the cost of labour and depreciation is below parity.
Last year, a disproportionate number of shops of “at risk” retailers were in medium to large industrial towns, mainly in the north of England. The stores belonged principally to traditional retailers, such as Woolworths, whose store locations had been determined by historic shopping patterns. Many of these stores have, as anticipated, now closed and the towns are experiencing high rates of vacancy. This has attracted much attention, not least from BCSC, but in truth, the horse has bolted. These towns need to develop a new, viable retail strategy built around their surviving retailers. Amongst these retailers, the proportion now “at risk” is lower than the national average. There is, after all, still a role for these towns within the retail hierarchy.
Currently, the proportion of “at risk” stores is higher than the national average in some prime retail locations scattered right across the UK. The likely explanation is that less experienced retailers have taken on inappropriate stores in otherwise sound retail locations. Identifying such traders and developing contingency plans is a significant asset management task. With credit difficult to secure, and banks looking to reduce outstanding loans, retailers that have expanded aggressively from an unsound base or taken on high levels of debt are amongst those most at risk.
Given the continuing high proportion of “at risk” retailers, FSP anticipates that retailer failures will continue in smaller numbers throughout the year. However, the profile may change with a lower proportion of “traditional” retailers and more that are over-extended or debt-driven. As always, forewarned is forearmed.
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