Retail news this time last year was gloomy. High streets were appearing more like ghost towns and the list of companies going into administration seemed endless. The most depressing thing from a recruitment perspective, however, was the resultant lack of growth and innovation within the companies left standing. News was filled with cost cutting, price wars and redundancies – hardly inspiring job hunters to join these companies. Entrepreneurial talent and spirit seemed fairly redundant all the while aggressive cost cutting and streamlining was the order of the day. But over the year I’ve noticed progressive glimmers of hope resulting in more exciting employment opportunities. Researching and scoping growth opportunities, international expansion and new product development saw a return to the top of priority lists. I attended the British Retail Consortium event back in 2009 and saw Simon Fox speak. Given the prevailing cost cutting climate he stood out with his enterprising spirit and ambitious plans for HMV. And the following months saw HMV develop a number of innovations such as the launch of in store cinemas . But sadly I read today that HMV is to close 60 of its’ HMV and Waterstone’s stores and I’m left wondering if conservatism is winning out in this market. Take WH Smith for example, since the arrival of Kate Swann at Smiths back in 1999, they have continued to streamline their business and focus on their core offering, selling books, and have resisted the temptation to move into other entertainment streams as HMV have done. At first it seemed a bit dull but perhaps good old British conservatism has paid off. As the banking crisis has showed us, it doesn’t always pay to take risks. But, I for one, hope that we see a return to innovation in 2011. Without it the high street would be a dull place to shop and work.
Keri Link is a consultant on the Interim team at FreshMinds