Over the past 12 months retail has probably had more media exposure than during any year I can remember. The Safeway battle dominated the broadsheets, while broadcast media looked at the British consumer's seemingly unquenchable thirst for more purchasing power. Food scares, obesity and convenience stores also did their bit to add to the growing media attention.
It is into the middle of this media maelstrom that Kevin Hawkins now strides. In taking up the mantle of director general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) this week, Hawkins knows many BRC members may judge him by how he fares in getting their message across in the media. He himself has not been slow to criticise the organisation's track record in communicating with the media and its own members.
In Hawkins, the BRC has got itself a proven operator. His skills in dealing with the toughest members of the media establishment have been honed in his role as Safeway's director of communications. I don't doubt that he will be able to get his message across; the problem he may have is what that message will be.
The BRC represents a broad church of retailers, ranging from small and mid-sized businesses up to some of the largest outfits in the land. Having to be representative of such diverse interests often makes settling on an acceptable line a tricky business. It is this balancing act which has prompted some of the criticism the BRC has faced in the past for not being combative enough or for needing to show more backbone.
However, one of the first tasks facing Hawkins is to get some of the big boys - such as Morrisons and Arcadia - into the BRC fold. The withdrawal of Safeway now it comes under the Morrisons banner has exacerbated the gaps in the line-up.
The BRC can count itself fairly unfortunate when it comes to its dwindling membership. It endured a difficult period when several retailers going from public to private ownership withdrew from the organisation, citing the need to cut costs. Former DG Bill Moyes made it a feature of his stewardship to make the BRC less dependent on membership fees, successfully pursuing other …