It’s nearly 15 years since my last corporate role, working in the strategy team at Boots the Chemists. Since then many things have changed, but others remain stubbornly similar.

When I left Boots, the challenge for most high street retailers was to establish genuine differentiation against low-price competitors, the grocers and new, pureplay online retailers led, of course, by Amazon. Fast forward a decade and a half and the issues for high street retailers are pretty much identical, only more severe.

While a few – Dunelm and Next, for example – have continued to grow and thrive, most retailers have struggled to deliver meaningful sales or profit growth and many, more seriously, have lurched from crisis to crisis. This week’s collapse of Arcadia (Topshop, Dorothy Perkins) and Debenhams follows the demise of brands including Warehouse, Jaeger, Staples, Maplin, Toys R Us, BHS, Phones4U and Tie Rack.

While the pandemic was the final straw for Arcadia and Debenhams, both had suffered from years of commercial ill-health. Like many other high street retailers, they had failed to deliver the fundamental new strategies that their fast-changing markets demanded. As a result, they simply weren’t fit enough to cope with the virus.

Over the next 12-18 months there will be a recession, but also a recovery. As with other recessions, the strategic actions you take now will determine your success over the next five years or more. There is a short window in which businesses – both retail and non-retail alike – have an opportunity for a strategic reset.

It is a time to be bold; to identify, focus on and ruthlessly pursue a strategy that enables you to truly win, not merely survive. It might seem risky to make bold moves in such uncertain times, but, as Arcadia and Debenhams have shown this week, the bigger risk is to do too little.

And if you’re wondering where to start, why not download my new white paper, below – The Time for Bold Moves

Off The Record: Move On Up by Curtis Mayfield

Hush now child, and don’t you cry

Your folks might understand you, by and by

Move on up, toward your destination

You may find, from time to time


The Time for Bold Moves

Growing through and beyond the pandemic requires bold actions, not timid plans. These 5 steps can help you to accelerate growth and transform your market position.

© Stuart Cross 2020. All rights reserved.