TV Retail ‘Guru’ Mary Portas has today been asked by David Cameron to come up with a plan to help turn around the fortunes of our ailing High Streets.

Central to the review – ordered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – is the worrying level of sales in town centres, which have dramatically under-performed other locations.

Government figures show that between 2005 and 2010, town-centre sales grew by a paltry 1.5%, while those in out of town shopping centres grew 11.5% and non-store (mail order and internet) soared by 71.5%.

As our ‘Shop Doctor’ knows only too well there will be no simple solutions as the picture across the country is extremely complex and compounded by a range of issues that range from the costs associated with operating on the High Street , the state of the local economy, customer demographic and how supermarkets and out of town retail activities interface with the towns themselves.

Underlying this is the poor condition of many of our High Street environments, parking charges and accessibility and the individual presentation of the shops within them – and then there are the challenges of the varying levels of customer service experiences and customer perception (or misperception) of what it actually costs to shop in the High Street.

Read more about this issue from Retail Gazette here

The two recent bank holiday weekend’s have had a significantly negative impact on sales at John Lewis department stores. Figures released today reveal that trading at John Lewis fell 9.2 per cent year-on-year in the seven days to April 30th 2011, with all stores more than 12 months old reporting a drop in sales compared to the same period last year.

read full story from Retail Gazette here

Update 6th May:

Owner of online home and garden products retailer The Range, Chris Dawson, has expressed an interest in purchasing the threatened Focus DIY business, it has emerged today

Retail Gazette have just carried the following announcement :

Almost 4,000 retail jobs are at risk following the home and DIY specialist Focus DIY’s announcement today that it is “filing a notice of intention to appoint administrators”.
Directors at the retailer, which is majority owned by Cerberus Capital and has around 170 stores, have sought consent from its lenders to appoint Ernst & Young (E&Y) as administrators. All stakeholders including staff have been informed of the plans.
E&Y is currently not commenting on the process and cannot confirm whether it will be representing Focus DIY in any administration negotiations.

Read the full story here

Copeland Borough Council have arranged for ‘The Shop Doctor’ to spend a day in May evaluating the retail scene in Millom as part of an excercise to help revitalise trading opportunities.

Following the day visiting the key retail areas The Shop Doctor will present an evening Masterclass detailing his thoughts about the visual impact that Millom retailers make on their customers, and recommending cost effective routes to develop business performance.

 8 rural businesses in Cheshire East will be receiving a ‘surgery’ visit from the Shop Doctor during April.

Shops in Gawsworth, Cholmondeley and Sutton have already been visited  enabling the Shop Doctor to evaluate issues impacting on business performance and helping identify cost effective solutions to develop sales.

Each of the shops provides a bespoke service to its local community from the one month old (and extremely well presented) community shop operating with a paid manager and 23 volunteers in Gawsworth to the superbly equipped and stocked Farm Shop at Cholmondeley and the wide convenience offering at Sutton Lane Ends.

Opportunities were identified at each shop and these will be incorporated into a comprehensive written recommendations ‘prescription’ highlighting routes to enhance performance.

6 April 2011 was the first Common Commencement Date (CCD) of 2011. This event, which happens twice a year, is where key government departments issue new regulations and make changes to existing ones. Some of these changes simplify existing legislation for businesses.

Business Link is committed to providing the latest news and relevant information for your business. For your convenience, they have summarised the key points of the changes and the action you may need to take in order to comply.

Visit their website to check if any of the new regulations apply to your business.

‘Shop Doctor’ Bill Smith has recently been working with Cheshire East Council advising 22 retailers across Nantwich , Middlewich and Sandbach how to improve their retail vitality.

A ‘Let’s Talk Shop Retail Masterclass’ was also delivered which challenged those attending to think about how they present their businesses and what they could achieve by implementing some simple changes.

The visits were the first phase of a programme that will see more ‘Shop Doctor’ activity in Cheshire East over the coming months.