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Sterling challenge for UK shops

Robert Peston | 09:15 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Sales in a typical Next store, so called like-for-like sales, have fallen 7%.

To put it another way, the UK's second biggest fashion retailer is selling one in twenty fewer skirts and shirts in shops unaffected by new openings.

This sounds disastrous.

But investors in its shares may actually breathe a small sigh of relief that its performance in the last five months of 2008 wasn't even worse, given the gloom that's engulfed the High Street.

Also there's comfort to be had from Next's announcement that it's on course to make profits in line with City forecasts of more than £415m before tax.

At Debenhams too the theme is that it could all have been a lot worse, as the leading department store chain reported like-for-like sales down 3.5% in the 18 weeks to the beginning of January.

Although Debenhams is widely viewed as having too much debt, barring an unexpected calamity both it and Next will still be standing after the downturn in consumer spending which has exterminated weaker rivals.

What will particularly impress Debenhams' creditors is that the gross value of its transactions and profits have risen, the business is generating cash, and net debt has fallen

But it won't be easy.

Next warns that the coming headache will be a massive increase in costs caused by the sharp devaluation of sterling.

In Next's case this doesn't bite until the autumn and winter of this year, because it has hedged its currency exposure until then. For most big retailers, including Marks & Spencer, the big impact of the weakened pound will come in the middle of the year.

There will be a horrible choice for Next, M&S, Primark and the rest, who buy most of their stock outside the UK.

Should they absorb an estimated 20% currency-related increase in the cost of clothing and other goods manufactured for them in China, India, Hungary and so on?

That, of course, would mean that their profits - which are already on a crash diet - would be squeezed further.

Or, in a period of feeble consumer demand, is there any chance they'll be able to pass on the cost increases to cash-strapped consumers?

Their ability to pass on the costs to us will depend on the intensity of competition at the time.

Right now, with Tesco announcing yet another round of price cuts, there's no sign of an easing up in the competitive assault.

In fact, one of the reasons that the sales of Debs and Next weren't even worse was the significant discounting that took place in the Christmas fortnight.

Anyone who made the mistake - as I did - of venturing to a mall or shopping centre in late December will know that we haven't been wholly weaned off our spend-spend-spend habits.

There was a mob, frantically looking for bargains.

But we're all back at work now, the last Woolworths have shut their doors forever, and a chill wind is blowing through the economy.

Those who run our biggest stores tell me they're braced for the worst of winters.

Update 1243: The Times is, of course, correct that M&S is poised to announce around 1,000 job cuts. Details will be announced tomorrow in its trading update and the statutory consultation period will commence. But this shouldn't be seen as a savage and massive redundancy programme. M&S is the largest fashion retailer in the UK and employs more than 70,000. These job reductions represent less than 2% of the workforce.

Also, I didn't mean to imply, as some have suggested, that Next's figures include the post-Christmas sale (its trading update relates to the period up to and including Christmas Eve). What I thought I was saying was that it and Debs (and lots of other big store groups) benefited from a shopping surge in the holiday season (which is in Debs' announced figures, but not Next's).


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Its unemployment that will stop the spend culture - that is the real looming problem. That or lowering of annual wages which is happening all over the economy. You keep talking about investors being happy with these results and the outlook hence the shares rallying - is that real you do not seem to discuss trading volumes which I understand are so low that there prices are hard to gauge as real or not in shares (much like houses!).

  • Comment number 3.

    invest in kiddie clothes + good food (to grow more) (kids)

  • Comment number 4.


    I watch OUT for your inspired


    daily in fact you are the OTHER

    reason I read this BLOG

    Keep telling it HOW it is and

    don't EVER change.

    Best of LUCK in RUSSIA.

    keep a hat ON.

  • Comment number 5.

    Maybe they can start rebuilding the clothing manufacturing base in the UK as the costs abroad make it more viable now

  • Comment number 6.

    "In fact, one of the reasons that the sales of Debs and Next weren't even worse was the significant discounting that took place in the Christmas fortnight."

    Get your facts straight Robert. Next have said they managed to resist discounting before Christmas as they always do.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Anyone who made the mistake - as I did - of venturing to a mall or shopping centre in late December will know that we haven't been wholly weaned off our spend-spend-spend habits.

    There was a mob, frantically looking for bargains.

    That Mob was market traders restocking thier stalls, unless you belive that a 50 year old man requires one jumper in 10 sizes 24 times

  • Comment number 8.

    Robert have you really talked to these retaillers or are you regurgitating what someone else has reported.

    Retaillers are planning to raise prices and not discount and make more profit on less volume this year. you really need to get into some shaerholder meetings and listen

  • Comment number 9.

    Wow, it's black-ice out there, Bob, that was a nasty skid yesterday!
    I was talking to some people who are fairly front-line in picking up on people dropping into the social security net in the West Midlands over Christmas, and they haven't seen anything too unusual.
    As at this point, therefore, we've got the banks in intensive care, front-line retail in isolation with a nasty dose of economic ebola (haemorhaging at all the pores and nobody wanting to touch it with an economic bargepole) and the motor industry on the skids. However, much local industry seems to have diversified and is surviving, particularly with the export-friendly exchange rate.
    If we invert this, the banks are causing troubles to otherwise healthy chunks of the economy. HMG wants to keep playing the bankers game, therefore they too are part of the virus and not part of the cure.
    We can probably do with less retail to cut the net propensity to spend, and boost the governments green targets with fewer cars and less milage.
    Which still leaves the nasty hangover of government borrowing, which has promptly cast us back into the dark ages of the City controlling the Government, the Ponzi scheme just sucked in the Treasury. The question remains, why should the City both be bailed out and retain the whip hand?

  • Comment number 10.

    nice attempt at nutmegging us today Robert: start off with the 'it could have been a lot worse and the stock market is rallying' statement but then neatly switch to the doom and gloom in the 2nd half of your post about retail prospects

    I wouldn't take much notice of the current stock market moves though; the markets are complicated and largely counter-intuitive so you shouldn't be trying to talk it up or give tips. But I think most people are smarter than to believe the positive messages at the moment - for instance Chrysler sales in the US dropped an amazing 53% in December (most other carmakers had falls of 35% or so) because the potential buyer has already worked out that Chrysler are quite likely to be the first to go into bankruptcy and no-one wants a car with a warranty from a bankrupt company

    words butter no parsnips
    no matter how fine,
    buyers and suppliers
    beware in '09

    I posted this link on the earlier blog but recommend it again, especially for all you people who are persecuting alexandercurzon; lighten up and have a smile:

    the little video starts after the annoying Blackberry advert and you'll need to turn on the sound

    it's an animated explanation for children of how credit works and why the financial crisis matters; though aimed at primary school kids it could be useful for explaining a few things to:

    all politicians (except Vince Cable)

    the bankers (as if they didn't know already ha ha)

    the regulators definitely

    everybody in Iceland (the country, not the shop where we're all going to have to buy our groceries soon, instead of at Waitrose)

    Mr Peston if he continues too much with his positive reassurances

    but not Mssrs Madoff or Murdle, who already understand how to take carrots away from rabbits, or alexander curzon whoever or wherever he might be!

  • Comment number 11.

    #7 PotKettle
    Go watch the check-ins at Eurostar. If its market traders, they're selling on the quais de Paris, not down East Street.
    I'd bet it's the same in Turkey, not to mention whether the Japanese have turned their suitcases into tesseracts with infinite storage capacity, which is probably why they never lift the things.

  • Comment number 12.

    I really wonder what this comment is about, almost verging on vacuous

    Surely if these companies are on track for their forecasts then it isn't "news". Scare stories of worse to come must surely be backed up with facts although Crash has always managed to fudge those

    The bigger questions need to be around when companies like Debenhams and Travelodge need to re-finance their debt

    Then where they are likely to find the funding, if at all.

    These companies make nothing, except maybe fostering low wage economies

    The retailers are only a part of the economy, collecting the VAT, employing others who occasionally work sufficient hours to pay National Insurance (never mind Income Tax), and maybe paying Corporation Tax if they don't have "one off" costs.

    News must be pretty thin on the ground,

    Maybe you should take the opportunity to ask Mandy about his yacht appointment, might while away the time whilst you attempt to get an answer.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with #5. We have seen British manufacturing offshored to the extent it is no longer sensible.

    Wages are rising in the far east, sterling is falling and oil will still run out (even if the price is down for a little while).

    It will not make sense to ship shirts and jumpers halfway round the world, when they could just as easily be made here.

    By 2040, almost everything we all buy will be "Made in Great Britain" again, simply beacuse the alternative will be prohibitively expensive (actually, it might just say "Made in England" by then, but that's another story!!)

  • Comment number 14.

    All retail outlets will put the squeeze on the staff levels and salaries. For example, one high st name who sells books and papers and stationary is already on that path by doing away with morning and afternoon paid breaks by informing staff that they are no longer paid breaks.

    This petty behaviour will continue throughout the industry, counting on fear to impliment these type of daconian measures, inspired I must say by there own fear.

  • Comment number 15.

    Alexander Curzon is what he says he is, I met him many moons ago and he hasn't changed much. For that matter, CEH seems to have disappeared again - he isn't what he says he is, he's a much smaller player and it's the second time he's overplayed his hand in the last few years.
    That does not mean to say both don't spin the odd line to suit their own books on occasion.

  • Comment number 16.

    #2 - totally agree - Currently people are actually benefitting from more available funding (mortgage reductions etc) and due to Christmas the irresponsible high street spending has continued - once the credit card bills start arriving (ie now onwards) will be the first hit and then the redundancies will just continue reducing the spending down and down.

    If costs for retailers are going up then I hope my spouse (and everybody else) have bought well in the sales because these may well be the clothes they will be wearing for years to come!

    Business spending on the other hand stopped back in September in my experience and in many ways is ahead of the high street in the cycle.

  • Comment number 17.

    Next' problems run deeper than the current UK economic climate. Their clothing for men is always the same, they simply change the colour and shape of the print, nothing new encouraging me to buy the latest fashion, because they are out of fashion ...

  • Comment number 18.

    Why is anyone interested in the schoolboy economics of this Robert Peston, his unintelligent economic dribble usually adds nothing to any serious debate. The only reason the BBC use his is because when he speakes he gives a good Margaret Rutherford impersonation withjout any intelligent content. Dump him

  • Comment number 19.

    Retailers are planning to raise the sell price, reduce staff, lower stock and reduce lines.

  • Comment number 20.

    #9 Pot_Kettle wrote...

    "Retaillers are planning to raise prices and not discount and make more profit on less volume this year. you really need to get into some shaerholder meetings and listen"

    Well that's what they (and you, as a shareholder) would hope for. But will they be able to do it?

    The long Christmas break with time to think, the cold weather and a downbeat return to work has chastened the spend-spend-spend thinking in some of the people I know. They've only just cottoned on to the fact that there really is a recession, rather than a story you see on TV about the US car business and, heck, they are in it.

    I've noticed something else this time too. Just how long it takes to re-engineer the normal family economy for harder times. Is that just a result of debt, or the fact that we have been stuck in a rut for so long and vegetated? Whatever.

    The retailers have had it easy so far - I don't think price hikes will stick in the game we're entering now.

    The good news is that our thinking is ahead of the good people of the Eurozone. They are 2 months behind. Use the low pound to sell them what you can before they catch up.

  • Comment number 21.

    There is a further corollary: HMG should offer exceptional tax breaks for retooling, I would suggest accelerated depreciation scales as a perfect way of achieving it - it has the odd effect of suppressing profits while in a depression, but then again, itùs a good time to hide bad news. Nanjing Automobile were incapable of building a modern production line, they had to buy one in, but it wasn't new even then and they don't have the nouse to do it again. We've now got the opportunity to start with new kit, if the government will only allow it, and that can give us a critical whip hand on the way back.

  • Comment number 22.

    2009 will be a severe test for the 70% of people in the UK, who surprisingly continue to believe that sterling is a better option than the euro.

    At the moment the inflationary effect of the 30% drop in the exchange value of the pound, is masked by retail price cutting and the fall in world commodity prices such as oil.

    But unless the MPC can reverse this fall in exchange value by a timely increase in bank rate, or the government can summon up the courage to go for Eurozone entry, serious, probably double figure inflation, will return in the coming months.

    This will slow recovery from the recession and the UK will be back in the stagflation of the 1970's, and this time there will not be the prospect of new North Sea oil production to pull us out.

  • Comment number 23.

    "made in Britain" raises other issues then like where do we get the raw materials. China have been stock piling, we used most of our raw materials decades ago.

    So Cow hide clothes and sandles and wooden clubs for us. I'm off to buy a herd of fresians

  • Comment number 24.

    How much debt is "too much" in the case of Debenhams?

    Is it >GBP1bn?

  • Comment number 25.

    Sal 196
    "By 2040, almost everything we all buy will be "Made in Great Britain" again, simply because the alternative will be prohibitively expensive (actually, it might just say "Made in England" by then, but that's another story!!)"
    Are you suggesting that by then England will be a third world country? On the basis of the rapid descent under Gordon Brown away from the private sector and the growth of the public sector I think you're spot on.
    We could also be riding around on bycles because we can't afford a car.

  • Comment number 26.

    "doing away with morning and afternoon paid breaks by informing staff that they are no longer paid breaks."

    Surely that is illegal in health and safety law?
    Of course if the employer wants to go down that line you could always work through the break and leave earlier leaving them with no staff when you have all completed your contracted hours early.

  • Comment number 27.


    have a think about it for godssake

    how many businesses would be delighted with a 7% drop in turnover - plenty

    these type of retailers are not even a good economic indicator and no doubt if they go wrong they'll pre pack, bin the lot and keep the good trading units

    you also missed the sterling bounce - what next?

  • Comment number 28.

    Not bothered updating the blog from the original news report!

    Still of the opinion that a 7% fall represents 1 in 20 less sales?

    Surely 1 in 14!

  • Comment number 29.

    Has anyone seen the way the Guardian has reported the same story? The facts are, of couse the same but the tenor and insight are so very different. Does the bbc actually enjoy reveling in negativity and disaster? It certainly feels like it. Shame on you and Mr Preston alike for lowering youselves to tabloid standards of journalism...

  • Comment number 30.

    In 1992 Gordon Brown said : 'A weak currency results from a weak economy, which in turn arises from weak Government' It is ironic that in 2008, Brown's first full year as PM the Pound lost more value than any year since the Gold standard was dropped in 1931. By Brown's own logic, his is the weakest Government for 77 years.

    If devaluing currency was good for an economy then Zimbabwe would be the richest country in the world. It isn't.

    As Anne Robinson might say: 'Gordon - you are the weakest link - Goodbye.'

  • Comment number 31.

    I popped out to our local Super-mall (Cribbs Causeway in Bristol) over the break. Although it was busy, people didn't seem to be going mad.

    Add to the fact there was a lot of hype about the mad sales and prices being slashed (which didn't seem hugely to be the case)

    I think for a lot of people it was a case of 'lets buy stuff we need and want now', but then stop for new year and watch the pennies.

  • Comment number 32.

    Being allowed enough finance for growth by a bank manager will be the singular objective of all business alrge or small .
    The scenario of customers madly giving profits away and having to restock at inflated import prices is simply not a good proposition as far as a lender is concerned
    David Cameron has focussed on lending guarantees which will help but bad business remains bad business and should be allowed to wither .
    Unfortunately the good ones are caught up in the melee and will also suffer so the upswing will be delayed longer than necessary.
    It might help if retailers were to try to sell us something in a well trained and cheerful manner.
    Those of us with money to spend want service and a simple human response that we are important to the seller.
    Stores need to adapt to be a hybrid of sales and internet pick-up point.There are simply not enough white vans available to deliver the potential groth from this area .
    Britain is a bright ,lively innovative country deserving of better than the drones who run business and government at present

  • Comment number 33.

    The only thing that surprised me with the Next results is the fact that sales have only fallen 7%. When I was in there recently, I thought the clothes they had (menswear, at least) were dull, dated and overpriced for what they are.

    In my opinion, there is much better value/choice to be had elsewhere.
    At 36 years of age, I think I'm still just about in the age range that they're targeting but their clothes just AREN'T that appealing any more. Why anyone would want to queue up at 5am for the opening of the sale, two days after Christmas, is beyond me.

    I think there's a very real threat that they will find themselves in the same position that M&S's clothing was in a few years back before they introduced new lines and got rid of some of the non-visually-enticing clothes they had on display.

    With things in general set to get tougher for Joe Public for the foreseeable future, I think the likes of Next are going to find it hard to hang on to it's existing customer base as consumer spending falls dramatically over the coming months - especially when cheaper alternatives can be found elsewhere.

    Off topic (going back to yesterday's Bull in China Shop post), it occurred to me that Waterford Wedgewood was the second commonly abbreviated WW story (after WoolWorths) - I wonder where/when WW3 will happen?
    Didn't World War Two signal the end of the last 'severe' economic downturn???

  • Comment number 34.

    #12, You seem to be the only one, so far, who has hit the nail on the head. The real story of 2009 is NOT how the retail sector managed to survive Christmas. The MAJOR story for retail and manufacturing will be how their debts will be re-funded.

    If their is any comfort in the coming debacle it is that we will finally see the perilous state of non-government sectors of the economies of our European neighbours. We may have led the way but Europe will soon be seen as feeling the pain as well.

    Please don't take too much notice of the Stock Market. For all their much vaunted professionalism they are acting in their habitual way - a gang of headless chickens reacting to everything that comes into their focus.

  • Comment number 35.


    By suggesting that by 2040 "Made in Britain" will be back I wasn't trying to suggest Britain will be a "third world country" in the manner that we have them today i.e. some countries very poor relative to others.

    Rather I expect to see wealth more evenly spread. US/UK will see standards of living fall, China/India will see theirs rise.

    Chinese and Indian people aren't inherently better at manufacturing things than British people. It's just that currently they are currently willing to do so for less money, and thanks to cheap oil we can ship the stuff over here and it's still cheaper than making it in the UK.

    By 2040 our wages (in real terms) will fall, theirs will rise, and transport will be so expensive that no-one would consider making goods like everyday clothes so far away.

  • Comment number 36.

    An interesting ob from the "other side" of the exchange rate is that here in Dublin there is only weak evidence of passthrough from lower sterling.

    This is despite a slowdown in consumer spending and major competition from Northern Ireland.

    This is consistent with lower exchange rate passthrough worldwide and suggests that it will need a really jolting shock to change retailer behaviour.

    Maybe we will get it. But for now the model of exchange rates being felt in profit margins rather than prices looks surpriisingly resilient.

  • Comment number 37.

    Rahere & Curson... never in the same room together!

  • Comment number 38.

    I am concerned about all the overly negative comments about the economy and Robert is particularly good at this. It is slightly daily mail type of journalism.

    when I read papers abroad the press do give a more balanced and try to be upbeat where possible.

    the affect of the banking crisis and recession will be worse and self forfilling if the following measures are not taken

    1. The banks are acting like children hording their moneytaking money in and not lending in order to build up their balances and pay of debts too fast. People and good businesses still need to borrow money and if this is withdrawn tthen the loans the banks already have will turn sour as even good businesses go to the wall and their creditors then have problems and so the bad debts and recession becomes self propagating and the banks will loose even more money

    The Pathetic banks and their managers need to be forced to loosen the strings and be reasonable to businesses.

    2. It is without doubt house prices were growing too fast fuelled by the stupid lending policies of the banks. The lending does not now have to stop but be sensible.
    By closing down the money sources people cannot buy houses so the prices continue to fall and more peole go into negative equity and the banks lose more money and the recession in the housing market will be self perpetuating

    The Pathetic banks need to be reasonable in their morgage lending if they do not want to depress the market further and lose even more money in the long term. Once the market stabilises the overall sentiment of people and the markets will change after all there is a shortage of houses in the UK
    people are just waiting to step back on.

    3.The sentiment of the population is affected by many elements not leased what is given out day by day by the media. you cannot tell me that all of a sudden people no money compared to last year, it is just they are worried about spending and who wouldn't be after listening to the news. If people stop spending inevitably goods are not bought and manufacturig goes ever more into decline that gets reported so is self perpetuating. If we all carried on spending then the recession would be short lived.

    It is therefore vital that the media reporters to report the news in a balanced and factual way with less throw away comments such as 'ITS going to get much worse' at the end of the report. Every effort must be made to be positive in outlook to boost confidence and turn this situation around. Does Robert want to be responsible for making a bad situation worse? Please try to smile and be positive and use your influence in a positive way by putting the spotlight on the banks until they change.

    All the best and have a great new year everyone!

  • Comment number 39.

    The idea that we can simply start making things and avoid the problems of a weak pound is not well thought through.

    What about the cotton or other raw materials to make the clothes. We would still need to buy much of it from overseas. And even with the fall in our currency our labour costs are still far beyond those in China.

    Even where raw materials do exist we would then have to look at our energy costs which are heavily influenced by our currency. Oil and gas are related to $US.

    In any event who is likely to invest in new manufacturing capacity when surplus ready capacity is falling idle even in China.

  • Comment number 40.

    25. At 12:21pm on 06 Jan 2009, skynine wrote:

    By 2040 ...."We could also be riding around on bicycles because we can't afford a car."

    Oh yes please! That would save the few thousand deaths and serious injuries each year that we as a society deem is a price well worth paying for our selfish, fully-mobile lifestyles.

    I never bothered to learn to drive, cars are old technology powered by a finite resource. My bike is powered by me, whether I am fuelled by beer, bananas, mars, kebabs, cheese and pickle sandwiches or a plate of pasta. Just need to regularly service the legs and eyes.

    Now I admit you need the plant, materials and technology to manufacture a bicycle, but its sure using up less of each than it does to make a ton or so of metal and plastic. Though when dumped on waste ground at the end of its useful life, a car certainly makes a very good home for bats...

  • Comment number 41.

    Well, this is a good time to buy british - not just for us, but the world.

  • Comment number 42.

    The sensible retailers used Christmas to dump surplus inventory at high discounts in order to release cash into the business. They will reorganise, cut headcount, cut stocks, close the weaker stores, reduce costs and manage their supply chains very tightly.

    The foolish retailers will run about banging their chests like insane gorillas until they go bust.

    This will be the pattern for all business, including banks, for the next few years. Cliches about men, boys, sheep and goats apply.

    I leave it to the shareholders to select the winners and losers.

  • Comment number 43.

    rahere post15

    St Helens Bishopsgate I GUESS?

    Or Lloyds of London pre 1985?

    Re Sterling Crisis

    We marked up product costs 9 months

    ago for 2009 production.

    Gordy: Inflation i see no INFLATION??

  • Comment number 44.

    There will undoubtedly be more stories in the next few months of manufacturers and retailers cutting cost through wage freezes and reduncancies. What I have yet to see is any evidence that the public sector (except at the MoD) or the banks are prepared to cut costs. We all know how much fat and wastage there is in public services, but there must be an equally spendthrift culture in the banks, after so many years of huge profits. After all, those mega bonuses and lavish entertaining are just symptoms of a cavalier disregard of costs. Of course, politicians have no stomach to reign back the client state, but the sad fact is that the lavish bank bailouts have removed much of the incentive that should have been there for the banks to reign in their costs.

    Noone wants to see other folk lose their jobs, but if the economy is to be rebalanced then some of those clever people currently inventing new types of mortgate securitization should be reemployed in the real economy, creating real wealth.

  • Comment number 45.

    17. At 12:14pm on 06 Jan 2009, jamesthehoof wrote:

    "Next' problems run deeper than the current UK economic climate. Their clothing for men is always the same, they simply change the colour and shape of the print, nothing new encouraging me to buy the latest fashion, because they are out of fashion ..."

    That sums up men's fashion full stop! Men aren't very adventurous and the market suits that premise, T-shirts made by Bench have the Logo 'Bench' blazoned on the front this season, next season the same but maybe a slightly different colour, season after that the font will be reduced 5% in size... Jeans will be blue with thin legs, next season, bigger pockets and the stitching will be more visible!

    In fact fashion is dead and has been for years, just regurgitating the same ol' same 'ol - the last decade with any truly new styles was the eighties (and most of that decade was still filled up with hark backs to the 30's and 50's).

  • Comment number 46.

    #10 Happy New Year me old hearty!!

    Very good link! I agree with your other points too. Disagree each other's opinions folks - that's how we all learn, but leave out the persecutions.

    I find it interesting that some people who have a go at Alexander Curzon themselves hide behind pseudonyms.

  • Comment number 47.

    I went to M&S in the post-Christmas sales to buy a new suit. They had closed their fitting rooms and put a sign outside saying that they were closed "in order to serve you better".

    If they think that not letting me try clothes on is better service, then frankly they deserve to go out of business.

    I hope that one positive aspect of the current recession is that the incompetent companies will go out of business and natural selection will ensure that the businesses that come out the other end of the recession will be the ones we want to buy things from.

  • Comment number 48.

    I presume Steve W was censored for being off topic, but it was a VERY interesting article - WELL worth a look folks. Google "Harry Markopolos" plus fraud and you'll get there quicker.

    - I've only skimmed it so far, but it is frightening. It confirms Galbraith's view that "Speculation buys up .... the intelligence of those involved."

    It also shows that the SEC did not have the expertise to investigate a detailed complaint.

    Back to the sterling decline - another of Galbraith's views, based on the 1930s, but still true today: "The British Economy is inherently more difficult to manage than than, say, the French, because of its dependence upon imports.

  • Comment number 49.

    @40 Thornton

    Come on I've already spoken with you about this. Its only in urban conabations where a bycycle or public transport is viable.

    That rules out most of the country.

    And in true blogger tradition I am going back way back to discover the route cause of public transport woes and put the blame firmly at the door of Beeching.
    His study into line utilisation was ill timed and took no account of how mainlines were fed there traffic.

  • Comment number 50.

    re philthetooth

    "The Pathetic banks and their managers need to be forced to loosen the strings and be reasonable to businesses."

    Forced by whom? The goverment? Banks are there to make profit, simple as that. They have lent money out recklessly, supported by interest rates that have been too low - thanks to government policy (CPI). Now banks are able to pick up assets cheaply as borrowers default. A nice trick if you can get away with it.

    Government should never be involved in private businesses. There should have been no bail out. Banks have no morals, they are not designed to have any, and we should not expect them to have. They should have been allowed to fail and the bad debt liquidated.

    As for reporting, this should be as the reporter sees, or is paid to see, the situation as. Just asking for a positive spin all the time is naive - like AAA ratings for companies on the verge of bankruptcy.

    Stop looking to the government to sort out all your issues, they are the problem not the solution. Try freedom - you might like it.

  • Comment number 51.


    While both may have refinancing problems, I think the trading prospects for Travelodge are somewhat better than for Debenhams. Debenhams sells overpriced, discretionary spend type products, whereas Travelodge sells a very good product that people who are travelling actually need at a budget price. I stayed in one down south this last weekend which had been refurbished. It was comfortable and cheap, with a very good quality bed - better than before - all for £9 a night.

    #17 and #33

    As to Next, I couldn't agree more. What a load of outdated, boring, stock. If they survive the recession, it will be a miracle. I am surprised anyone still shops there.

    Having just been down south to the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, I think the English are getting a really raw deal on the retail front. With the exception of Madhouse, who were selling their products at the same price as up here in Scotland, the rest of the retailers had "sales" prices that matched our Scottish non sale prices. For instance, Waterstones were selling annuals, on "sale" for 25% more than the exact same item, also on sale, up here.

    While Bluewater had plenty of people wandering around, checking out the post Christmas sales, I wouldn't describe those who were there as a "mob, frantically looking for bargains". Quite the opposite. People seemed to be keeping their hands firmly in their pockets. New Look, for instance, surely better placed than Next to survive the recession, had all of five customers in the ten minutes we were in there. Hardly a buying frenzy, is it!

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm fed up with all this negativity - there are loads of positive things happening all over the UK if you bother to look....but that doesn't attract an audience. We know that there will be loads of job losses in the next few months (sorry for all those who lose a job) but how much of it is the herd instinct and the opportunity to get rid of the poor performers? If we end up with 15% unemployment (heaven forbid) there will still be 85% people employed and if you don't NEED to move house the change in value won't make the slightest bit of difference. Most of us have got more £'s in our pockets now as a result of interest rate changes etc so let's crack on and make the best of what our political and banking masters serve up for us. A lot of what we get is down to us!

  • Comment number 53.

    It strikes me that the length of time that is being taken to moderate posts that there is a requirement for more moderators???????

  • Comment number 54.

    Dear Robert

    Whilst I would agree that there are going to be tough times for certain sectors of our economy, I would really like to have a more detailed overview of what is going on out there. All we hear about is how a handful of companies are doing (usually badly) from disparate industries and when put together how this means doom and gloom for us all.
    Even good news seems to come across as near disaster - or is it me?
    What has happened with Next is what we can expect for a lot of companies in 2009 - sales down, but profits up, largely because of cuts to the work force.
    One thing I learned about Keynes was that people can talk themselves into a recession. I just wonder to what extent we are doing just that...

  • Comment number 55.


    Do you think that everyone

    a) works?
    b) has a mortgage?
    c) has their own home?

    Huge numbers of people

    a) have company or final salary pensions from government jobs
    b) own their home outright
    c) live with mum and dad
    d) inherited money from family when houses were sold in estate sales
    e) didn't borrow more than they could afford
    f) don't move very often

    If these people are squeezed its because of substantial increases in taxes including council tax over the last few years and a government that uses the word investment when actually it is spending.

    If they aren't squeezed and they aren't spending its because there isn't anything they want to buy at a price they are prepared to pay.

  • Comment number 56.

    OK, the pound is weak at the moment, but remember those foreign manufacturing operations still need to shift product and acquire hard currency. This means downward pressure on factory gate prices, and meanwhile it is likely sterling will bounce somewhat as other economies own up to the truth. Meanwhile, doesn't it show the folly of successive governments (but let's not excuse this one) undervaluing and insufficiently supporting domestic manufacturing. Remember when M & S made a point of souricng its products in this country, and the lament when they announced they no longer could afford to? In timehte tide must shift, as costs rise abroad, so why not grasp the nettle and start investing in our industries? That seems more likely to promise a sturdy future economy than monkeying around with banks.

  • Comment number 57.

    post 10 somali pirate

    Enjoyed the link Send it TO GORDY??



  • Comment number 58.

    My wife runs a single outlet independant retail business in a secondary position in a small city. Sales in the six months to the end of December were 2.5% up on the same months last year and thanks to careful pruning of the ranges stocked margins are better.

    However, with most of the products sourced from within the euro zone because we do not make very much in UK anymore there is a real headache facing the business as input prices rise. I think they will be passed on to customers who will accept that if they want these high quality products they will have to pay more.

    Keeping on top of all the factors in play at present requires intense vigilance.

    We look at the figures issued by all the large businesses going into administration and wonder what their managers do all day

  • Comment number 59.

    Retailing is not all about the square footage on the high street any more just like news isn't just about the print on paper and recruitment isn't about the high street either.

  • Comment number 60.

    evergrowingbrain post 4

    Thanks for the CHIRPER.

    TRYINg not to USE too MANY caps.

    I usually get GOT at FOR thaT?

    Go to the Somali pirate post 10:

    GOOD link there.


    STERLING TRASHE! thanks?

  • Comment number 61.

    #48 sashaclarkson .... I think it got pulled because it links to a downloadable file, which breaks house rules. You can link to just about any web page you want, but PDF's are a big no-no.

    It can't be for being 'off topic' - the major discussion going on at the moment on 'Preston's Picks" is whether A.C. is real or not and was he really in Moscow yesterday, and it doesn't get more of topic than that !

    What astounded me about the article was that Markopolos states that he is one of the few in the world who understand all the maths involved, and then uses the literary and mathematical talent of a sixth former throughout the article. He is obviously knowledgable, but brainy - I have my doubts. And if he is at the top of the pile of the financial services industry and the only one capable of spotting Madoff's fraud, then God help us when the whole mess starts to unravel.

  • Comment number 62.

    Want some good news? Well come on in the waters fine. Or at least it could be if we take action now.

    For the last 25 years the economy has been directed towards maximising consumer spending. Now is the time to re-focus the drivers of our economy. It's too late for us not to feel the pain in 2009/10 - including the lauded (well on here!) Mr Curzon. There will be blood all over the carpet. Therefore we will need government to take the lead by investing in strategically important firms and sectors.

    We need to change the whole emphasis from the bean counters who have destroyed British business towards individuals who can build Value in their enterprises. So, if you want support you have to sign up for a guaranteed R&D spend. Somebody above suggested a re-tooling tax holiday - well that's a start.

    Let's be honest, we are energy poor. So let's build nuclear stations - but we need to build into the contracts demands for measures that lead to us regaining the technological edge that we once enjoyed in the sector. We still sit on a huge resource of coal (Oh no I hear the tree huggers squeal!)
    Well let's use it - it makes strategic sense. BUT we also invest heavily in the increase in the effectiveness of scrubbers. let's invest in wind and tidal energy BUT demand increases in effectiveness. let's invest in a British motor manufacturer BUT demand development in electric or fuel cell cars. Wherever we invest the State must demand a tangible increase in effectiveness and therefore true value - not just short term profitability.

    Sorry boys but that means putting the accountants back in the supportive role that should always have been their place. It means a whole new set of thinking from the City and the Government. It also needs a whole new approach to how we manage our enterprises.

  • Comment number 63.

    61, 48 and all the other 'doubters'. I can assure you that Alexander Curzon is very much real. Wether he's as rich as he makes out I wouldn't know but I very much suspect that he's probably richer and uses good accountants to mask it from the tax.

    Alex? Did you ever go to the 'Exiles Club' in Richmond? Is it still in business even?

  • Comment number 64.

    #55 MrsBloggs

    Superb. why does the beeb think it is speaking for everyone in this case?

    The reason is because if you work for the BBC you are very likely to be in all 3 of the categories.

    I've said it before - as someone with a mortgage (which I can afford) and no need to get any more debt, i'm selfishly enjoying the current climate.

    I won't be saying that when I lose my job, (and i very much feel for all those who will).

    Or when interest rates shoot up, because someone might eventually notice that cheap borrowing is no solution to a problem caused by cheap borrowing.

  • Comment number 65.

    Re the transport debate. I think a husky/skateboard combo is probably more ecologically sound than a bicycle option. If things get desperate, the husky could also be considered an fmcg, literally.

    On a slightly more serious note...

    Irrespective of the recent sterling bounce. Most currency commentators seem to be predicting a steady rise in sterling v the euro this year. There are expectations that euro base rates will drop further, and irrespective of that, whilst we are all confident that our economy is ready for cremation... it seems that our continental friends are all performing the last rites on theirs too.

    Phew. Speaking as a lemming, I find it reassuring that others are jumping off the cliff with me.

  • Comment number 66.

    #52 is fed-up with negativity...

    I applaud your desire to be cheerful. But the whole point of recessions is that we ALL have to be thoroughly miserable for a while.

    Then one morning we ALL wake up, the sun shines and we ALL think "I'm bored with being miserable - I want to be happy". And that morning everything starts to get better.

    Economics is, after all, only the combined study of psychology and money/trade.

    Sorry if this sounds silly, but having been here before, it seems to me to be nearer the truth than any amount of economic analysis.

  • Comment number 67.

    I too was surprised that sales were ONLY down 7%.

    NEXT is a had been. Its now outdated, and lets be honest here... massively overpriced. Not just a little.. but massively.

    M&S undercuts NEXT these days on price, and shops like Burtons/Top Shop/Top Man/Primark make NEXT prices look like Gucci.

    I know its a simple example but a bunch of socks in NEXT is £10. In Primark its £2, and they are identical.

    NEXT deserves a slap for ripping us off so much.

  • Comment number 68.

    #46 and 48 sashaclarkson

    aaarh and a happy new year to you too

    more to the point, the SEC clearly didn't WANT to investigate a detailed complaint; I
    wonder if the failure to regulate would be as bad here in a similar case; we might just find out this year: an ebbing tide exposes all the rocks and wrecks not just some of them

    quoting Galbraith again, on the 1929 crash and subsequent Depression:

    'One of the oldest puzzles of politics is who is to regulate the regulators. But an equally baffling problem, which has never received the attention it deserves, is who is to make wise those who are required to have wisdom'

    for those bloggers who are truly pessimistic about the UK situation, sterling etc perhaps they could try the Madoff solution: convert all your money into portable property like jewelry and then mail it to your relatives somewhere else! good for the Royal Mail too

    my loot remains buried on a beach

  • Comment number 69.


    What an appalling way for staff at Marks and Spencer to find out from the news media that there will be 1000 redundancies. Now they and their families will have to wait an agonising 24 hours to find out which parts of the organisation will be affected.

    The proper way to proceed is through departmental managers relaying the information to staff within the company. This happened to me when the pension company I worked for announced substantial lay offs, so at least everyone knew where they stood.

    Shame on all the news media for reporting this and that includes the BBC. Quite disgusting really.

  • Comment number 70.

    Look at things on a global scale.

    We shipped jobs from Britain to abroad, as foreign workers were cheaper.

    It is therefore cheaper to buy abroad.

    There aren't enough jobs in britain.

    Britain gets unemployment

    Britains are willing to work for less.

    production moves back to britain, as costs are less.

    eventually - all worldwide workers will end up earning the same wherever they are - due to free market forces. Trade deals and national governments can control things of course, but if the price is high, why should anyone pay it?

    Globalisation means our status as one of the richest nations can't continue. if it is cheaper to get something in from china, then the british workers are over charging...

  • Comment number 71.

    When big chains of retailers inevitably fail, they're going to unload tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of twenty somethings with no useful qualifications and whose only experience of work will have been in retail.

    Add to that the fact that these people, particularly of that age (their entire adult life has been spent under a New Labour mentality of financial recklessness) tend to have no savings, massive student debts accrued from a 3 year "media studies" type course and max out their credit cards like it's the cool thing to do and it's apparent that another economic disaster is on the horizon.

  • Comment number 72.

    #62. foredeckdave wrote:

    "We need to change the whole emphasis from the bean counters ... towards individuals who can build Value in their enterprises"


    But without the 'bean counters' how will you know if "Value" has been built?

    Rather, it is my view that the rules the accountants apply need a thorough review to ensure that there is a greater correlation between the longer term aims of society and the rules that are applied to business and finance.

    Simply slaughtering accountants, whilst it may be satisfying in itself, misses the point and that is all that they do is apply the regulations and rules that the state dictates.

    Further, you rightly point out that there is a lot of coal and see that scrubbers, which I take to mean carbon sequestration equipment and associated technology, is developed. I am not convinced that any of the proposed technology solutions will, or do have the potential to actually provide an economic, or even an effective solution.

    I fear that the energy required to run carbon sequestration is greater than the energy output from the coal from which the carbon needs to be sequestrated.

    I also agree that propping up dead end luxury car manufacturers is an unwise use of tax payers funds.

    I am all for Nuclear and Tidal (Severn and Cross-Channel) Barrages, but both had better make energy economic sense (see my point about coal)

    I cannot however accept that the role of actually doing the sums properly should be forgotten as you suggest.

    There is a huge sense of pride in the UK that we can't do sums and it is a national disgrace and humiliation.

  • Comment number 73.


    How naive!

    Do you really think that the staff of M&S hadnt long ago been informed that job cuts were coming after Christmas?

  • Comment number 74.


    Some excellent ideas on growth areas. Britain could really be a world leader in these areas, particularly energy. Now more than ever we desperately need to be energy independent. Russia has shown that it is just not reliable and is willing to play fast and loose with its obligations.

    Instead of fannying about with a second bank bailout, ID cards, bungled NHS computer systems (and thats even before they go live!), trying to prop up a crashing housing market, this is exactly what our government should be doing - investing in more stable and futureproof technology. But that has been the perenial problem with a chain of successive governments - money is spent, but it is spent recklessly and without ensuring good value is obtained.

    I'd agree with your entire post if you replaced the word accountant with financial services drone.

  • Comment number 75.

    #70 - your point about a flat economic world is of course ruined by different treatment of employees around the world - only with equal regulation and rights will we truly end up with a 'world' economy - I wonder if some of those joinging the dole queues would agree to waive all their rights to get a job; of course this would not be legal and would not stand up in court but the point is that we are not competitive because we are operating under different rules - our houses getting cheaper will not change that fact.

  • Comment number 76.

    I have been to my local shopping 'mall' today. Lots of people but no seems to be
    actually buying anything.
    One reason could be that the shops do not seem to have that much stock on the racks and shelves, so even if you want/need to buy you can not find anything.
    My local John Lewis has a very poor selection of winter coats, when I asked an assistant if they had sold out their winter stock she told me that they had not had as many different designs in as in previous years. Obviously they were afraid of overstocking and being left with a load of winter stock which they would have had to reduce to get rid of.
    Same problem seems to have hit Laura Ashley. I reckon the Spring stock will be pretty thin on the ground too!
    The shops have an Eastern block feeling about them!

  • Comment number 77.

    #60 alexander curzon

    ok i'm sending a link of the post #10 carrots/rabbit explanation of economics to Downing St FAO not only GORDY and ADarling but also my neighbour, the gorgeous Yvette Cooper

    hopefully once they've read and digested it they can start getting this country back on the rails

    Yvette can also read it to her kids at bedtime (I know she has some fans on here)

    She's conveniently married to Ed Balls, who I believe is still in charge of our schools syllabus, so perhaps a general roll-out at key stage 4 will follow

    PS: anyone see what Obama is saying about upcoming US unemployment figures - at least he seems to be calling it straight on the economy; shame he isn't doing the same to the Israelis about Gaza yet

  • Comment number 78.

    60 alexandercurzon

    Keep it up with the CAPS, prefer to think of you as a CAPitalist. Its become your brand. Keep posting, You draw the fire and I am sure that having spent some time as a secondhand car salesman you can take it. Anyway anything is better than the gloomsters.

    65 milkyboy

    Dont understand the desire to jump off cliffs, base jumping is not my thing. Anyway things look fine. Oh forgot - you can't be happy or at ease in 2009, a new crime.

  • Comment number 79.

    If you have booked a holiday for July 2009 - would anyone buy their Dollars NOW or LATER??

  • Comment number 80.

    I agree 100% with Watty2000 (#71).

    On a personal note, I was actually looking forward to some serious UK deflation to reduce my Student Loan repayments as it is linked to RPI......but no! There is a get-out clause which means the Student Loan Company can charge either RPI or another (rather LIBOR-esque) figure, WHICHEVER IS THE HIGHER!!!!

    Should have read the small print. I wonder how many 18 year old Freshers actually do? I wish Bobby P had been around 10 years ago to tell me to consider PRINCIPAL as well as INTEREST repayment :(

    Seriously, I firmly believe that there is an emerging demographic crippled by "graduate" debt, but with no "graduate" job to compensate.

    If I could ask Gordon Brown 2 questions they would be:
    1) How many graduates are there?
    2) How many graduate jobs are there?

    ...actually let's say a final open question;
    3) Any thoughts??!?!?!

  • Comment number 81.

    65. At 1:55pm on 06 Jan 2009, milkyboy wrote:
    "Re the transport debate. I think a husky/skateboard combo is probably more ecologically sound than a bicycle option. If things get desperate, the husky could also be considered an fmcg, literally"

    Excellent idea! But what is an fmcg? Something about a free meal?

    49. At 1:12pm on 06 Jan 2009, Pot_Kettle wrote:
    "@40 Thornton

    Come on I've already spoken with you about this. Its only in urban conabations where a bycycle or public transport is viable.

    That rules out most of the country."

    If you go by square miles I would agree, but my guess is that well over 90% of people live in reasonable centres of population (say over 3000 folks in a cluster) which have fair to good transport links if you choose to work with them rather than base your mobility on already having a car.

    More on topic, I did go to some big London retail centres both before and after Christmas and like Robert I found them madly busy, though only a minority of those splurging the GBP on designer gear looked like resident Brit taxpayers.

  • Comment number 82.

    Its unlikely that any of these stores have paid for their 3rd quarter stock yet so the original cost would of gone up by 25-30% as well as they come to pay for it. This will hit Q1 even harder.

  • Comment number 83.


    I agree there is too much negativity.

    I work as an R@D Engineer for a company that sells 90% of its product abroad. The product is a mixture of extreme Physics/Engineering and software. The company is comprised of 80 people of which 35% is R@D, 10% Admin and the rest is manufacturing and testing. We have had a record year and the order books are full.

    The falling pound is a real bonus as our product is very cheap to sell abroad. Marketing suggests that only 15% of the market has been scratched. Our only real competitors of whom there are two who can make what we manufacture are in a similar position.

    We punch well above our weight in the UK for innovative Physics and Engineering products and as much as I want to see the back of this appalling Government they have invested quite a lot of money in Physics for which we as a company have benefited to develop stronger products.

    If we are to survive as a serious trading nation we have to start making things again. I am afraid kids may have to start 'binning' the soft degrees in Media etc and concentrate on the serious end of the knowledge economy in Physics and Engineering. We are a lot more resourceful in this country than a lot of people will have you believe. Our kids with the right training and guidance and the huge resource of learning available are not cleverer than what we think but are actually cleverer than we can imagine.

    If a poor working class kid from a council estate who left school with two O levels can make it then any one can. It just needs hard work and application.

  • Comment number 84.

    regarding the #10 carrot/rabbit link forwarded to HMG, as suggested

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------

    From: postmaster
    Date: Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 2:49 PM
    Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)
    To: somali pirate

    Your mail message has reached HM Treasury but could not be delivered because the recipient name below was not recognised.

    Delivery to the following recipients failed.

    oh dear; I hope there hasn't been a reshuffle as I quite liked Yvette's feistiness; I think my emails to Ed and Alistair went through though so maybe Ed can pass it on to her

    GORDY doesn't seem to have an email address any more; they say he was getting too much advice

    you see there are aspects of recession that have comic potential

  • Comment number 85.

    @83 Mark

    "If a poor working class kid from a council estate who left school with two O levels can make it then any one can"

    Unfortunately not even a Newton can make it in this countries current dumbed down education enviroment. Even the degrees in real subjects arent quality qualification these days.

  • Comment number 86.

    If the big retail chains are cutting back we could see some pretty miserable looking shopping malls by the end of the year as many of the smaller retailers go to the wall.

    Everyone is concentrating on the housing market but I certainly would not want to be an investor in the commercial property market.

    Another problem for the banks and the government who will not be collecting their huge business rates.

    Bottom is nowhere to be seen.

  • Comment number 87.

    Is it me or does Robert Peston look like Robbie Rotten out of CBeebies Lazytown. They both are pretty scary! Keep up the good work Mr Peston.

  • Comment number 88.

    #80 livewithinmeans

    I completely agree about the graduate timebomb.

    Think about the "average" graduate:

    - By 21 will have £15k debt
    - Needs to get a job to pay off £15k debt
    - Then needs to start paying into a pension
    - Then needs to save at least £15k to put a deposit on a house!

    You are talking about paying back/saving £30k AFTER tax just to buy a terrace house where I live! That's the kind of money some people of my parents age save in a lifetime.

    It's completely impossible to do if you're starting on a "reasonable" graduate salary of say £18k... and I assume there's lots of graduate jobs paying this now?

    This is going to leave a lot of people with the attitude that debt is perfectly normal and their peers all have it. It also means that in years to come, all this debt is going to hit home.

    It's wrong.

  • Comment number 89.

    @86 Virtual

    I am sure G.O.L.D are re-running Bottom
    Richie and eddie are so funny.

  • Comment number 90.

    86 virtualsilver

    Construction : (

    Some high st retail : (

    Financial sector : (

    HMG revenues : (

    Gordon Brown : )

  • Comment number 91.


    Well said - we need to reinvent Britain as a cutting-edge economy. To your suggestions, I would add that, if hand outs are to be made to car manufacturers, it is time to insist that they diversify to rail. At present, many of our new trains are imported from Germany and elsewhere in Europe, while freight locomotives come from Canada and many goods vehicles from Poland.

    This should be put right, and in turn we could grab a share of what will be a growing export market.

    I wouldn't be too harsh on the accountants - underskilled management should never have relied on them so much, to make the decisions they were incapable of making. Yes, put them back in their place; we need a resurgence of creative thinking to rebuild British industry. This means also putting bankers back in their place, to act more as a utility than a hedge fund.

    As for our alleged inability to compete with the Asian low-cost economies, our roads seem to be full of cars made in Germany, France and Sweden; the world's biggest cruise liner is about to make its maiden voyage, having been built in Finland. Not exactly a list of 3rd world countries, is it. Why should we be different?

  • Comment number 92.

    Dear Preston

    The high street has been in decline for at least the last 15 years to my memory albeit not at the rate of 7% pa.

    The problems of Woolworths, Next and Debenhams are largely specific to each of them.

    Woolworths has gone because people bearly knew its product range anymore while Next, imo, offers no better than discounters at a very high premium price. None of the three have a USP anymore. High street names have regularly come and gone

    I am starting to agree that there is too much gloom and doom in these blogs. Even when economies grow some individual retailers will decline.

    Trade, both domestic and world is obviously a catalist for growth and the basis of a health economy.

    Concentrating only on negativity will not help the economy.

  • Comment number 93.

    Re Retail Shopping Malls etc

    Many of these will have numerous empy

    units by the end of 2009.

    People forget that even a modest unit

    of say 1200 sq ft can cost circa 250K

    in rent and rates,then theres service

    charges turnover tax by the landlords.


  • Comment number 94.

    78 Glanafon. Intended as a tongue in cheek post... i actually think the herd mentality of humans is what creates exaggerated booms and busts. And i agree with all the comments on too much negativity.

    8- Thornton. FMCG... fast moving consumer goods. I was waiting for the animal rights activists to pick me up on it

  • Comment number 95.

    Re M & S layoffs

    Are these people who are on permanent contracts, or seasonal employees?

    Is it possible we are getting sensationalist reporting?

  • Comment number 96.

    Echoing kudos to Mr. Curzon, by the way. He knows what a balance sheet means, and that the ink on the bottom should be BLACK!

    Kudos as well to leeds4me4eva, #52.

    And in echo to his thoughts:

    The economic news is sobering, but not cause for despair, because despair creates nothing. It does consume everything in its path, however!

    For instance: Pound sterling has dropped, and struggles to make any headway back. We plan to visit your fair island soon, since it is much more affordable. We'll eat, shop, and enjoy it all. We can't be the only ones who have similar plans.

    Two years ago, with the pound over two dollars, Manhattan was chock-a-block with shoppers sporting English accents. The US was on sale--cheap fares, cheap goods to buy, cheap and plentiful restaurant portions to enjoy. (I was in the UK on business, stunned at the expense of everything!)

    Don't mean to be a Pollyanna, this period of deep adjustment, shouldn't we be looking at the opportunities it affords us?

  • Comment number 97.

    To whom it may concern...

    Disagreement on the blogs is great-it stimulates constructive discussion and is very informative as a result of the ranges of knowledge out there are brought together.

    But, for goodness sake! Lay off the personal attacks on individual bloggers like Alex C-it doesn't add anything constructive to the process.

    And why should anyone be required to ask for personal details in such a public domain? If an individual chooses to give that info, it's their decision. Anonymity gives a freedom to express oneself fully without fear of retribution from employers etc. Particularly where the points made are contentious.

    Leave the personal attacks out please.

  • Comment number 98.

    "Meanwhile, privately-owned fashion chain New Look enjoyed a successful Christmas after sales rose 2.8% compared to a year earlier. "

    Not surprisingly this is the only paragraph out of the 28 in the BBC report today which wasn't developed to look at the underlying reasons.

    The other 27 paras did a great job in developing the negative elements of the Next/Debenhams stories, and generally putting the wind up anyone who refers to the BBC to gain any wider view. Certainly not balanced, all personal opinion editorial.

    Do your job. Report the facts.

    Selling 1 in 20 fewer skirts cannot sound disastrous to anyone without their own personal agenda - surely 1 in 20 in marginal?

  • Comment number 99.

    CURZON....please crawl back under the rock you emerged from.

    Your continued naivety and frankly untruthful egotisitcal claptrap is getting up my nose.

    I've just been to have a look at your so called £700m turnover business that you so often use as an example to why we should all listen to your views on the wider economy.
    A net worth of £19k as at the end of May last year would suggest you either take one hell of a salary out of it, or are a little fibber, at almost 38 years of age you should know better.

    Oh, and by the way if you are still making the numbers you threw at us last week then you need a new auditor - unless theres a new accounting standard ive missed that means £700m turnover businesses can present abbreviated unaudited accounts.

  • Comment number 100.

    Stereotyping any group is not really an accurate way to comment on the economy - although I will accept bankers and financial advisors can be commented on in this way!

    As an accountant I have known my creative restrictions and leave my MD to be the creative 'ideas' man - I only provide him with the information that demonstrates whether his ideas have a good chance of standing or falling and why that is - the Ops director then has all the information he needs to either support the ideas or back binning them.

    This team approach on ideas, evaluation and implementation has worked very well for us. A good accountant is as important as a good entrepreneur (many of whom do lack financial skills but certainly not all) - unfortunately an awful lot of people including many accountants, entrepreneurs, bankers, politicians, people in the street etc etc completely forgot that booms do not last forever and hence stopped counting the pennies in the way they should have.

    Now we are all counting the cost in billions....................


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