Friday, 25 April 2008

Business Rates - 2010 revaluations

I wonder how many businesses realise that the Valuations Office Agency are starting the process of establishing the rateable values of for the 2010 valuations list for Business Rates. It will be the rents that businesses are paying now that will be used as the basis for the rateable values in two years time.

It must be said that this is the normal cycle for the agency, but isn't it just about right that just at the moment when landlords are likely to be easing rents to retain tenants that the current rents will be enshrined for five years as the basis for taxation. It will be interesting to see how the rateable values in 2010 compare to the rentals at that time - if the rentals fall then it will be worth challenging the valuations. It will be particularly necessary for retailers who, if Sir Stuart Rose is correct, will be at the height of a period of depression and suffering revenue slumps. It does make you wonder if this system is either fair or practical as a tax raising system.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Green speaks great sense!

As a champion of SME retailing it is not often that you will find me agreeing wholeheartedly with Sir Philip Green, but in a piece written by Glynn Davies in the Retail Bulletin he gives advice about keeping ahead in the world of retail. His advice is as pertinent to a smaller operator as it is to one at his level of operations.

Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Barcelona he is quoted “Far too many people are driving down the price route but there will need to be differentiation...with newness and speed to market. Be competitive but also offer something different. To get people to shop in your stores you need to have something different.”

I have said as much in these blogs in earlier postings - it is essential in the economic climate that is developing that margins are maintained - clearly you need to be competitive, but that can be achieved by having that unique sales proposition rather than simply by being cheapest. It is often overlooked in SMEs that retail marketing is not simply advertising and merchandising it is about researching the product, securing a solid supply chain with mutual benefits and ensuring that the product on offer is a 'must have'; It is about having motivated people who understand the product on the shop floor interacting with the customers; it is about value for money, not about cheapness!

Monday, 7 April 2008

BSSA Summer school bursaries

This prestigious school has a fine reputation and those whom I have met who have attended over the years have all been fully signed up to the real advantages that they have gained from their attendance. In my experience the kind of subjects covered are best understood in the residential environment of the Summer school - a real hot-bed of creative thinking and learning.

What is not always recognised is that owner-managers are just as eligible for the busaries that Skillsmart (the sector skills council for retail) award as anyone. So rather than wait for the guys from House of Fraser, Debenhams or other 'names' to swamp the school, why not apply yourself? The problems of the smaller retailer and the skills that they learn can add an interesting and valued contribution to the whole experience - and, of course, the smaller retailer can gain benefit from learning what they do in the bigger stores too!

I see, from reading the Retail Bulletin, that the bursaries are now available; so what's stopping you?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Bad tidings as April gets underway

This blog has been with-held until a decent period had past since the 1st April - just in case anyone confused this worrying message with a form of black humour. Sadly, it is the real thing...

Katie Kilgallen, writing in the 'Retail Week' about the latest ICM poll to be published reflecting the mood of the consumer in the High street. She reports that "Of the 1,050 consumers surveyed, two thirds believe economic turmoil will increase over the next 12 months. Nearly a third fear for their jobs and 42 per cent feel they have less to spend."

Yes, it is only a small sample, yes it might well be that the particular locations of these people would mean that their view of the world is unlike anything experienced in your High street; but all that does not mean that it is not a reality. Retailers, especially SME retailers, are resourceful and optimisitc creatures usually - but it is those who are pragmatic and plan for resilience against the draughts of recession who are most likely to remain in business.

Of course, these things also offer a glimmer of opportunity too! The flexibility of the SME can really score in times of recession - remember not to buy too much stock and keep a weather eye out for the changes in the market demands and re-stock in small quantities of those things that are selling. Don't discount more than is absolutely essential and trade on quality service and quality product - but at a reasonable price that compares well within the normal market range. Above all, maintain profit levels, reduce costs and ensure that your customer service is second to none! (Remember to train your staff effectively too ... the subject of another blog, I can just feel it coming on)