Based on Retail Executives Retail Breakfast Presentation January 21st 2020

Retail trading in each of the past five or six years has been more challenging. I see no evidence to suggest this year will not continue this trend, and next year. In almost 40 years this is by far the most difficult market I have seen. It is clear to me that most retail business models are not fit for purpose. The extent to which fine tuning is needed will vary, but the old model will no longer work in the way it did.

The key source of this growing pressure is the evolving change in the relationship between supply and demand. Over the past 15+ years, online has grown to now account for almost 30% of all non-food retail sales. Meanwhile, physical space has actually grown, slowing in recent years, but still expanded. Supply has therefore increased hugely. Demand over this period has failed to keep pace, especially in the post debt crisis period, and then dampened further by uncertainty around Brexit. Twenty years ago, UK retail was physically immature. Today we have chronic over supply and this is progressively hitting trading economics.

Against this background, we inevitably see growing distress. Many businesses unable to cope with the demands of an increasingly overcrowded market. But there are some retailers (a minority) who are trading strongly. There is much to learn from these winners. This is not about copying but identifying different approaches and applying aspects to one’s own business.

In this increasingly tightening market, over expansion becomes an increasing drag on performance. Over expansion has pervaded most retail businesses. Too many stores, many or most of which are much too big. Product offers have also become too big. Significant editing is required. But the key to all this is the customer. Too many retailers have been chasing a widening customer base and forgetting their core customers. In every business I know, there are some customers you don’t want. Some sales you should reject. Core customers should determine what you sell.

Today’s winners include businesses as varied as Aldi, Primark, Selfridges, Home Bargains, Costco and Reiss. Each has a clear target market and does not allow peripheral customers to dictate the offer. This focus allows them to deliver strong availability, fast stock turns and a consistent experience for customers – a virtuous circle. While people love to pigeonhole, this market is not about what you do but about how you do it. No sector or type of retailer is immune from trading pressures. Execution is everything. Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart) and Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) have both readily acknowledged studying competitors for inspiration. If it was good enough for them …

Richard Hyman, Board Advisor Retail Executives Limited and RAH Advisory Limited

We have all grown up in an era of upward-only economic growth. The rate has varied and we have had the odd short-lived recession. But in the consumer economy, growth has been almost guaranteed for generations. For most of this period consumers’ spending power outpaced capacity growth. Today, many of the fundamentals have reversed. This is the background to where we are today and helps to explain the widespread turmoil we are seeing. 

Whatever the increasingly unbelievable official data might say, we are in a retail recession. Strategies that have generated reliable growth in the past, are often now nooses gradually tightening around retail necks. Every retail sector is oversupplied, with too many stores, units are too big, and ranges far too wide and deep. All this was designed to attract a widening customer base. And for generations of growing demand, growth was relatively easy. Naturally, some businesses grew more than others but even quite mediocre retailers were able to report modestly positive numbers. 

This is all now in the past. Against the background of massive online growth, physical space has continued to expand. With deep uncertainty and Brexit looming, demand is increasingly softening. Market forces are exposing the fundamental weaknesses of many retail businesses. 

The industry has become increasingly corporate. Smaller, niche brands developed by entrepreneurs were grown to a size where they attracted attention and usually floated or sold, sometimes to trade buyers but more often to PE Houses. The overwhelming majority of teams at the top of our industry have skill sets that are more managerial and less entrepreneurial. And in a trading market where the depth and rate of change is accelerating all the time, this is a critical point. Successfully dealing with change on this scale is foreign to the vast majority of today’s leadership teams. And this in turn is why the overwhelming bulk of our industry narrative today is around cost cutting. 

The biggest issue for most retailers today is not around their costs being too high. It is that their propositions are not good enough. They lack focus and have lost sight of who their core customer is. The fact I mentioned before is killing them, slowly and painfully. Retail is a high fixed cost business. Cutting costs relatively fast almost always involved cutting people. My view is that most of the remedies currently being employed in “rescues” are very short term at best. Most actually diminish a retailer’s ability to generate sales growth. In today’s retail/accounting vocabulary, the word restructuring only applies to the cost line. CVAs never make the company a better retailer. Restructuring must apply to the top line to have a real chance of success. 

There are no silver bullets and in fact there is only one way a retail business can secure its future. Sell more product. And doing this in a sustainable way requires a clear, focused and relevant proposition. I think this is the essence of entrepreneurialism. Understanding your market, what it wants, and investing in delivering exactly that at a price that represents value and allows you to make a competitively defendable return. 

This requires true leadership. Very few retailers out there today are investing in their top lines. Stakeholders need to understand the new reality. Historic returns are exactly that – history! The quality of leadership is vastly more important than in the past. And leaders need to have the courage and vision to critique their offers and invest in making them better. Invest in customer service, don’t cut it. Focus much on your core customers and much less on the others. Be more entrepreneurial. 

Richard Hyman is a world-leading expert in the retail industry, having provided top-level analytics, insight and thought leadership on retail intelligence to hundreds of businesses over the past four decades. Richard Hyman gives strategic advice across all the elements of the Retail Executives business including, executive search, business advisory, board placement and training. 

Retail Executives Limited is a specialist Executive Search firm, providing senior executives to the Retail & Fashion sectors. 

Please do contact Richard Hollister, Managing Partner on: +44 (0)7970 010101 +44 (0)1494 590404 

Small business lender, 365 Business Finance, has created a timeline detailing the appearance and disappearance of retail stores on the British High Street from 2008 to 2018.

The timeline serves to provide a visual depiction of a changing high street against the backdrop of recent media coverage of store closures.

The timeline lists 46 retailers; some old, some new – all at some point in time are or have been a household name. They have been grouped into five categories according to their concluding circumstance: ‘buy out’, ‘ceased trading’, ‘restructuring’, ‘clicks-to-bricks’ and ‘offline-online partnerships’. The list is by no means exhaustive, but through it we see how the landscape of the high street has changed over a 10-year period. As the timeline progresses we also see new retail players have made their mark on the high street with new business models and concepts.

Navigate through Recovery Road by scrolling or using the up and down arrow keys, to read each retailer’s story.


  • [2008] 54 large or medium retail chains went into administration, with 5,793 stores, employing a total of 74,539 [source]
  • [2009] 37 large or medium businesses failed with 6,536 store and 26,688 staff [source]
  • [2010] Nationally, 13% of shops were vacant, up from 12% in 2009 [source]
  • [2011] UK retail chains closed stores in this year at a rate of about 20 a day [source]
  • [2012] Online sales made up 9.3% of all retail sales [source]
  • [2013] High street vacancy rates fell to 15.1% by the end of 2013 [source]
  • [2008-2013] 30 per cent increase in the number of charity shops on the high street
  • [2013] There was a net loss of 264 fashion stores from our high street [source]
  • [2014-2017] The number of fast-food outlets on UK streets rose by 4,000 between mostly in deprived areas [source]
  • [2014-2017] High street vacancy rate 11% (percentage of empty premises) [source]
  • [2017] The UK’s high streets suffered 5,855 store closures, at a rate of 16 stores a day [source]
  • [2018] Online sales accounted for 21.5 per cent of the country’s total retail sales [source]
  • [2018] 21,355 retail workers being laid off in the first six months of 2018 alone [source]
  • [2018] 44 companies failed affecting 2,594 store and 46,014 employees [source]
  • [2018] High street chains experienced their worst December on record as store sales dropped 1.9% year-on-year, the sixth successive December to record negative sales growth [source]

Online – Offline

  • UK click and collect market is forecast to increase by 55.6% over the next five years [source]
  • Clothing & footwear will drive the click and collect channel, accounting for 61.2% of spend by 2022 [source]
  • On experiential shopping: A survey found that 78% of Gen Y respondents would rather spend money on an experience than a thing, and 77% say their best memories come from experiences [source]
  • 84% of shoppers expect technology in the store to create a better shopping experience [source]

The Future

  • By 2030 e-commerce will account for around 40% of all UK retail sales [source]
  • Between 2020 and 2030 half of the UK’s existing shop premises will have disappeared  [source]

About 365

365 Business Finance offers a merchant cash advance product to small and medium-sized businesses across the UK. Our finance products are designed as a fast and flexible finance solution for businesses that accept credit / and or debit sales.



Twitter: @365BizFinance

Linkedin: 365 Business Finance

Everything in retail is turning upside down.

For generations, the key to growing a retail business was to open more and more stores.

Getting physically bigger was what it was all about.

The size of a retailer’s store estate was a proxy for its strength – several hundred stores or more always impressed, and ensured you were taken seriously.

Today, the opposite is true and what were once thought of as assets are increasingly liabilities.

Most retailers have far too many stores and exiting leases is so much harder then signing up.

Being publicly quoted was another indicator of strength and importance.

Having access to (relatively cheap) capital was often critical if you wanted to grow fast.

Acquisitions could be relatively cheap. I would say that today, being quoted is a growing disadvantage.

Being a hostage to quarterly trading updates to a market that expects you to always beat your past performance come what may.

Retail is a business that can never be judged quarterly because it cannot be led or managed against such a short timeframe.

or most of us, the retail industry we have grown up in has been characterised by relentless growth.

While the wider economy has seen ebbs and flows, and the odd recession, retail demand has known only growth … until now.

The predominantly used management tool has been the rear-view mirror,
assuming that the past will be repeated going forward.

It won’t, and not knowing what the future looks like is the major source of industry challenge we see right now.

Looking behind you makes it so much more difficult to see what lies ahead but many decisions are still being made this way.

Every aspect of today’s retail business requires review.

Most retailers don’t just have too many stores, they are mostly too big.

And they mostly carry far too many products aiming to please too many different customers.

Many have sacrificed some of their engagement with core customers in pursuit of peripheral ones.

In other words, chasing sales growth at almost any price.

The consequences of this are clear: poor availability, constant promotions and deteriorating trading performance.

Despite this backdrop, there are plenty of role models demonstrating how it
should and can be done.

And while simply copying will not work, aspects of success can be incorporated and fine-tuned for your own business.

Selfridges thrives while most department stores are struggling.

This is a company that executes innovation brilliantly. Not technical innovation but constant change in the offering and service, giving customers a compelling reason to visit regularly.

While as a rule it will become increasingly challenging to build a
retail business selling someone else’s products, Selfridges is brilliant at doing this very thing, truly curating an offer whose sum is greater than the parts.

A lesson to landlords, as well as to retailers.

Lush invests heavily in its staff, training them to deliver immersive, empathetic service to a very loyal customer base.

Aldi offers a finely edited range c5% the size of its typical superstore competitor, producing hugely superior trading economics.

More recently, it has invested in developing a more segmented
offering, gradually adding more upscale products. Customer profile today is classless, very far away from the cheap and rather one dimensional Aldi of 30 years ago.

Primark obviously leads on very low prices but has very cleverly added layers of increased fashion and complementary ranges to build around what remains its core basics offer.

Ted Baker is an excellent example of brilliant branding.

If you took the labels out and removed the store name, everyone would still
know exactly which store they were in.

Ted may have lost its founder but I’m sure that it will remain true its culture, brand values and distinctive handwriting.

This is by far the most challenging market we have ever seen.

The market is forcing an industry shake-out.

There are too many mouths to feed. But the death of stores/the high street etc has been hugely overdone.

We are seeing the beginning of an end game for mediocre retailers but for there will be more room for the truly outstanding players to make excellent returns.

Retail Executives, a specialist retail executive search and advisory firm, has appointed Richard Hyman as board advisor.

Richard Hyman is a world-leading expert in the retail industry, having provided top-level analytics, insight and thought leadership on retail intelligence to hundreds of businesses over the past four decades.

Hyman’s role will include offering strategic advice across the all elements of the Retail Executives business including, executive search, business advisory, board placement and training. The prolific retail analyst will work alongside the Retail Executives team to build strong C-suite relationships and facilitate its event programme.

Hyman said, “There has never been a more challenging time for the industry and the right leadership has never been so critical. I have known and worked with Richard and Darren for many years. I’m looking forward to helping them build Retail Executives as the pre-eminent source of retail talent and senior management support across retailing.”

Hyman has worked with the majority of the leading retailers in the UK, their product suppliers, landlords, bankers and institutional shareholders, over the past 30+ years. During this time, he has built up unrivalled insight into every sector of the retail industry, its leading companies and the management teams that lead them.

Richard Hollister, managing partner of Retail Executives Limited said: “Richard Hyman brings an unrivalled depth of knowledge and an abundance of relationships to our firm. His ability to give detailed insight into all things retail will also be of huge benefit to our firm and clients. I have known Richard for many years and we have collaborated often, so it’s a huge pleasure to be working with him again.”

Darren Topp, chairman of Retail Executives Limited said: “Richard Hyman is another key appointment and moves us closer towards our goal of building a world class recruitment and advisory business. Like many CEOs, I have used Richard’s insight into the world of retail to help build and articulate a successful strategic plan – he will be an invaluable member of the team.”

Hyman started his career as a researcher at the Financial Times in the 1970s. He went on to work first as an analyst then as a director of Mintel, the global market research and market insight provider. In September 1984, he left to launch his own business, Verdict, created to focus on delivering a new breed of insight and analysis of the retail sector. He sold Verdict to Datamonitor in 2005 and later went on to be strategic advisor to Deloitte.

Hyman most recently set up his consultancy business, Richardtalksretail, in 2015 providing access to this insight and opinion.

Retail Executives recently announced the launch of its retail advisory division, Retail Executives Advisory Network (REAN), headed by Sarah Curran-Usher MBE.

For information on the Retail Executives executive search business or its advisory network, please visit


For more information, please contact the Retail Executives’ press office on:


Notes to editors

Retail Executives, was formed in 2018 by Richard Hollister, a veteran of the recruitment industry, previously having worked at three of the top global executive search firms. Unlike other executive recruitment firms, the company is chaired by senior c-suite and non-executive directors of the fashion and retail industry, who bring a wealth of knowledge to the business and its clients. The company has already placed a number of senior retail and fashion executives on four continents the firm and, has rapid growth plans with its modern-day approach to fulfilling its client talent needs.

Retail Executives Limited a specialist retail executive search firm has appointed Matthew Parry as Partner.

Having started his career as a graduate in the UK retail sector, Matthew joined an international executive recruiter to help launch their retail business. He subsequently joined a prominent International search firm to head up its Consumer Practice in the Middle East. On his return to the UK, Matthew joined Dixons Retail and was responsible for the appointment of both Board and senior executives during one of the country’s leading retail turnarounds. He has since worked with prominent businesses in appointing their Boards and Senior Leadership teams.

Parry’s main focus with be expanding the retail executive search, covering all areas of retail, hospitality and leisure in the C-Suite and board recruitment.

Jean-Pierre ‘JP’ Gadsdon along with Jane Carver commence as Associate Directors. Gadsdon has a long and accomplished history within the Talent Acquisition domain, working with some of the UK’s leading Retailers and Hospitality brands, working for George at ASDA, moving on to FatFace, Carluccio’s and River Island.

Carver trained in Retail Buying with Arcadia Group and Etam, before transferring her skills to HQ talent acquisition. With 11 years agency recruitment under her belt, Jane moved in house to lead the talent teams of Calvin Klein, Jaeger and Clarks where she specialised in growing and developing their direct talent acquisition strategies, executive recruitment and partnering with the people teams to support their retention and succession planning both across the UK and Europe.

Richard Hollister Managing Partner of Retail Executives Limited said; “Matthew brings to the firm a wealth of invaluable experience of not just executing senior board levels roles but acquiring and retaining client and candidate relationships. Matthew has the same ethos as the rest of the team in making this the number one Retail Executive Search firm and being candidate focussed. Matthew will build up a team of highly skilled recruiters to grow the firm.

Darren Topp Chairman said; I would like to welcome Matt, Jane and JP to Retail Executives. Richard is building a world class team as we look to build the retail executives business with our clear candidate focussed strategy which delivers the very best talent to our clients.

Retail executives will be announcing other senior industry hires over the coming weeks. Parry, Carver and Gadsdon will start with immediate effect.

Retail executives recently announced the launch of their Retail Advisory division, ‘REAN’ Retail Executives Advisory Network. Headed by Sarah Curran-Usher MBE.

Other recent hires include, Sarah Gillett an experienced Human Resources Director within the retail and hospitality sectors, who has been appointed Non-Executive Director.

Retail Executives Limited was formed in 2018 by Richard Hollister a veteran of the recruitment industry, previously having worked at three of the top global executive search firms. Unlike other executive recruiters the firm employs senior fashion and retail executives.

Retail Executives Limited a specialist fashion & retail recruiter of senior fashion executives has appointed former Very Exclusive Managing Director Sarah Curran-Usher MBE as Partner and Head of the new Retail Advisory division.

Curran-Usher is also the Chairman of Richards Radcliffe and a Non-Executive of French Connection.

Curran-Usher started her career at The Times on-line, before entering fashion retail as the owner of a small boutique in London and then founding

Curran-Usher’s main focus with be setting up and establishing the Retail Advisory division.

A new concept that allows companies both small and large, access to the best brains and expertise for consultation, whether this is just an hour or a few months.

Often a company needs to take advice but does not know where to go, we bring to them a choice of accomplished experts they can speak to ranging on all things retail.

Richard Hollister Managing Partner of Retail Executives Limited said; “Sarah Curran-Usher is an inspirational hire for Retail Executives Limited. Sarah has vast experience in luxury fashion, digital and importantly for the business will be our ‘Disruptor’. Taking apart the Recruitment industry sacred cows, breaking those china eggs and building a recruitment service anew from the modern customer’s requirements.

Topp said, Sarah is an outstanding appointment. Her combination of both corporate and entrepreneurial skills will be a real asset to the group as we begin build a new future in retail recruitment and consultancy.

Curran-Usher said, I am thrilled to be joining Richard, Darren and the team to build this exciting new platform as part of the Retail Executive Group.  REAN will be offering something new and innovative to support small to mid sized companies in the Retail sector who need to engage the expertise of Advisors within our Network.

Retail executives will be announcing other senior industry hires over the coming weeks. Curran will start with immediate effect. 3 weeks ago the appointment of Darren Topp was announced as Chairman of Retail Executives Limited.

Retail Executives Limited was formed in 2018 by Richard Hollister a veteran of the recruitment industry, previously having worked at three of the top global executive search firms. Unlike other executive recruiters the firm employs has consulting for them senior fashion and retail senior executives. Already recruiting senior fashion executives on 4 continents the firm has rapid growth plans with their modern-day approach to client’s talent needs.

Retail Executives Limited a specialist fashion & retail recruiter of senior fashion executives has appointed Darren Topp as Chairman.

Topp will be responsible for the firm’s strategic direction, growth of the firm’s advisory board and board practice.

Topp previously held senior roles in Marks & Spencer, before joining BHS and Outfit as COO, being promoted to Chief Executive Office in 2015. Most recently he was CEO at L.K.Bennett where he successfully re-structured the business. Linda Bennett bought the company back from Phoenix Equity Partners last year.

Richard Hollister Managing Partner of Retail Executives Limited said; “We are delighted that Darren has joined the business, these are exciting times for the firm and Darren is key to its growth. His knowledge of the marketplace, experience at various operating levels, he can understand the issues facing retailers and assist with solutions.

Topp said “ I am delighted to join Retail Executives LTD as Chairman and look forward to working with Richard and the team to build a new type of Executive Recruitment business that’s fit for today’s challenging retail climate”

Retail executives will be announcing other senior industry hires over the next few weeks.

Retail Executives Limited was formed in 2018 by Richard Hollister a veteran of the recruitment industry, previously having worked at three of the top global executive search firms. Unlike other executive recruiters the firm employs has consulting for them senior fashion and retail senior executives. Already recruiting senior fashion executives on 4 continents the firm has rapid growth plans with their modern-day approach to client’s talent needs.

Fashion Portfolio

A portfolio is a key tool required when applying for any roles within graphic design, and of course roles within the fashion industry are no different. While interviewing well is also equally important, a comprehensive fashion portfolio will help communicate your style, ability, creativity and understanding of the industry to a potential employer. Without a portfolio, you’re unlikely to be considered for a role in graphic design.

With that in mind, when everybody has a fashion portfolio, how can you create one that helps you stand out? Read on to find out…

1. Quality over quantity

Fashion Portfolio

When creating your portfolio, it can be tempting to include everything you have ever worked on. Especially if you are just starting out. Rather than trying to include a full range of your work, instead focus on including what you are proud of . You should only include your best work, and the work that you feel best represents yourself as a designer.

2. Experience

We all have to start somewhere. If you’re applying for your first role in graphic design, you might be wondering how you’re expected to build a portfolio without any work experience. The answer is creating experience for yourself…

Set yourself some briefs, and create visuals and more to include in your portfolio. You could even include your design brief.  This can be made up, or based on improving an existing brand. In doing this you can communicate your ability to be creative, think outside the box, and follow briefs well.

3. Keep it simple

Fashion Portfolio

It’s a known fact that people have short attention spans, particularly when it comes to looking at something on a screen. If you’re sending your portfolio as part of your job application via email, make your portfolio stand out by focusing on clean and simple design.

4. Showcase variety

If possible, include a variety of forms of design to show your full skill set. This could include website design, logo design, packaging and illustration.

5. Be flexible

If you know the brand well that you are interviewing for, consider creating a portfolio just for them. This could include tweaking your current portfolio, or creating an entirely new portfolio. Showing them that you are already on brand and understand their vision is a great way to get your foot in the door.

6. Digital and print

Fashion Portfolio

It’s likely you will need a digital version of your portfolio to apply for the role initially. You might want to also consider taking a physical version of your portfolio to any interviews you might get. In our digital era, few people would think to do this. In getting your portfolio printed, this shows you’ve gone the extra mile. As well as providing a great talking point face to face.

7. Keep things current

Avoid including anything dated. As a general rule, don’t include anything that’s more than three years old. If you’ve been taking some time out, and don’t have an up to date work to share, set aside some time and get busy on creating some new examples of what you can do.

8. Go for on-brand cohesive design

Avoid creating a portfolio that looks like it’s a collection of lots of different peoples’ work. Instead create a final product that is on-brand, cohesive and represents your style well. If you’re yet to define your personal brand, take some time to set out some guidelines to work to. Create a portfolio that is a true representation of your design style.

A carefully planned and well structured portfolio could be the difference between getting an interview and not getting an interview. It’s a key tool to help you get your foot in the door early on, and could even result in you being a favourite before you’ve even been invited to interview.

Get into Fashion

If you’re at a point in your life where you’re looking at the next steps to take in your career, it’s likely that you’ve thought long and hard about what you want to do, what will make you happy, and what will provide you with the lifestyle that you desire.

Whether you’re just out of university, or you’re looking to change your career after 15 years in a completely different industry, one thing that you all have in common is that you’re passionate about fashion. That’s often the easy part to define. It’s working out where specifically to work in fashion and where to start that’s often the tricky part…

Making a start…

Getting into Fashion

Before you start to look at routes into the fashion industry, the first step is to define exactly which area of fashion you want to work in. Potential areas include:

– Design, graphic design, retail, marketing, styling, photography, customer service, fashion buying and fashion journalism.

You might already have a clear idea on which area of fashion you want to get into. Or you might not be sure which is the right direction for you. If you’re keen to work in fashion, it’s likely there are certain areas that will suit you more than others.

Determine which area of fashion you want to work in, by doing the following things:

– Make a list of your skills. Compare these to the roles you are interested in

– Once you have a list of 2-3 areas you might like to work in, do some additional research. This will help you understand the day to day work, salary and lifestyles

– Finally, if you can, get in touch with someone in a similar line of work. There’s nothing better than speaking to someone who has first hand experience.

The route forward…

Get into Fashion

Once you know exactly which area of fashion you want to get into, you can now decide on the best way forward for you. The first thing that springs to mind is education, but university and other types of further education isn’t always right for everyone.

You may want to consider internships, or apprenticeships instead. The benefit of internships and apprenticeships is that you may have a job waiting for you at the end of your training. Internships don’t always guarantee a permanent role, but the recruitment process can be expensive. This means that if companies have a good candidate in front of them who already knows the company well, it’s likely they will offer you a job if you impress, and if they have an opening.

Apprenticeships have a clear structure. You can often also study for a degree as part of your apprenticeship. Apprenticeships pay the national minimum wage. You should be provided with a detailed training plan, the opportunity to study, and mentoring.

While internships should pay the minimum wage, this isn’t always the case. Internships can last from just a few weeks to a few months. Although there is no guarantee of a job at the end.

Whether you decide to go to university or to work as an intern or an apprentice, having a clear idea of what is is you want to do and a good understanding of your skill set will help you secure your position. This is the first step to starting your career.

If you have recently graduated, or you are looking for a new role, check our current opportunities page here: