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2017: It’s Not All Bad

The economic mood is pretty gloomy in the U.K. and Europe, but there is still room for optimism

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It’s the early part of the year, and already, retailers are moaning that there aren’t enough shoppers heading through the doors. In the U.K., the post-Brexit collapse of the pound has made the business of buying new inventory to put on the shelves more expensive, meaning prices are going to have to go up – and, oh yes, people are not spending as much as they did last year.

That, or some version of it, is the mood of many on this side of the Pond, but maybe there is something else at play? A fair proportion of the noisiest and most gloom-laden retailers are those whose shops are, well, a little dull, both in terms of layout and the displays meant to tempt savvy shoppers.

And the other point is that there is a new generation that seems to be weathering the storm and doing rather well, in spite of the headwinds. The most obvious of these is Missguided. The online fashion outfit has vaulted the digital hurdle and opened a two-floor store in the Westfield Stratford City mall in East London. Wander around, and it’s a mix of sassy mannequins posed in groups, emanating a distinct whiff of attitude with its hot-pink walls and graphics, and graffiti that raises eyebrows as well as a smile.

Shoppers, predominantly young and female, love it, and since opening at the end of last year, this one has consistently smashed all of its sales targets with plans in place for more stores to come. What this perhaps shows is that, while things may be difficult, particularly for fashion retailers, there is always something new just around the corner, and a good idea still has the capacity to trump a lackluster economic backdrop.

Whether there are enough new ideas around to add up to a positive outlook overall, it has to be admitted, is a different matter.

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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