Retailers See a Shaky Start to 2017 for Q1!

Retailers have seen a rocky start to the first quarter of 2017; from an improvement in Easter footfall figures and fewer insolvencies, to changes in leadership, store closures and statistics showing a month by month decline!

So, how exactly is the retail industry performing in terms of sales and growth, and has Brexit or the sudden call for a general election in the UK made an impact?

There seems to be many inconsistencies in terms of how well, or not so well, retail is currently doing with some reporting success while others report concerns.

The Office for National Statistics reported a decline!

In March 2017, The Office for National Statistics reported that the quantity bought in the retail industry is estimated to have increased by 1.7% compared with March 2016. Yet, looking at the quarterly movement, the 3 months to March 2017 is the first quarterly decline since 2013 (Q4)!

Fewer retailers made insolvent

Retail Gazette reported fewer insolvencies in 2017, compared to 2016. 28 retailers across England and Wales went into administration between January and March this year compared to 30 in 2016.

However, KPMG head of restructuring Blair Nimmo said: “There is currently a cocktail of factors causing headaches for consumer-facing businesses. Rising prices and lacklustre wage growth, coupled with high levels of household debt, is dampening consumer desire to spend.

Simultaneously, the impact of higher import costs, the new national living wage and business rate rises are only serving to compound the squeeze.”

 Changes in leadership and talk of store closures

Debenhams has hired two new directors to replace former Human Resources Director Nikki Zamblera and former Operations Director Peter Swann – but it begs the question – why did they quit in the first place?

Coast, Warehouse and Oasis have announced possible store closures as private equity firms Alteri and Endless show interest and bid on the trio of fashion retailers!

Shop Direct’s huge boost in profits!

Shop Direct’s profits were up 43% and they have had 4 consecutive years of sales and profits.

Likewise, Morrisons reported a 6th consecutive quarter of sales increase, with like-for-like sales excluding fuel, up by 3.4%.

BHS – a year on         

The BHS department chain was sold to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in March 2015 and just 13 months later, BHS collapsed and a £571 million pension deficit was revealed. Approximately 11000 jobs were affected as well as 19,000 pension holders.

Earlier this year, ex-boss Sir Philip Green agreed to pay £363 million less than the £571 million figure, and it has recently been revealed that Sir Philip Green and his wife are still fifth on the rich list with £2.8 billion. So, has Chappell offered enough to pension holders?

Did Brexit impact the retail sector?

There has been speculation that consumer confidence dropped following the UK’s decision to leave the UK and unfavourable exchange rates didn’t exactly fill consumers with confidence.

That being said, according to the Retail Salary Survey 2017 conducted by retail recruitment specialist Quest Search and Selection:

  • 45% of retailers reported headcount growth over the past 12 months, compared to just 27% reporting a fall;
  • Of these, 77% say business growth is the key reason for an increase in staff numbers.

Will the general election 2017 polls influence retail trends?

With Teresa May calling a ‘snap’ election in the UK to determine the country’s next Prime Minister and governing party, the public is anxious about what this will mean for the future.  Has May got a handle on Brexit negotiations or is Britain likely to get a bad deal? Will currency be destabilised and will consumers want to, therefore, spend less?


As quarter 1 of 2017 has been unstable for retailers, you must do all you can to draw customers in, and to ensure their loyalty lies with you and your store. A workforce management (WFM) solution could make the difference between customers shopping at your stores or at your competitors.

WFM can maintain optimum staffing levels; reduce overtime costs; minimise payroll errors, improve productivity and employee satisfaction and enhance the customer experience. Many organisations have noticed a range of benefits including an increase in profits, improved employee engagement and a better customer experience. For further information give us a call on +44 (0) 844 752 0036, or email and one of our friendly consultants will be in touch shortly.


Stores Closures