Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Message of Solace from Britain's High Streets

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Message of Solace from Britain's High Streets

Article excerpt


THE boss of Selfridges caused a stir the other day when he suggested he had seen a notable fall in business after the terrorist attacks in the US.

No matter that he watered down his comments when he saw them overshadowing what was intended to be an upbeat trading statement, since then every retailer in the country has been bombarded with calls from analysts and journalists asking whether they see signs of a collapse of confidence among shoppers in the High Street.

We will have to wait a few weeks for surveys and official statistics to get a full picture, but the anecdotal evidence is clear. Sales on the afternoon of the attacks and the next day were definitely down, but most retailers say they had recovered by the following Saturday and have given little cause for concern since.

Certainly the drop-off in business cannot be compared with the collective seizure that afflicted the country after the unexpected death of Princess Diana. But it is worth remembering that although the country virtually stopped spending for two weeks after her death, things recovered and returned to trend remarkably quickly.

Where spending is likely to be curtailed is in the holiday industry.

Understandably, the political uncertainty shows through in a lack of enthusiasm for even routine trips abroad, let alone tourist trips to more-exotic locations. This also happened in the Gulf War but business came back strongly once the military action was over.

In this case it may take time but meanwhile, in the words of Stuart Rose, boss of Arcadia, the holding company for the likes of Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop and Miss Selfridge, if people are not spending their money on expensive holidays it is much more likely that they will seek solace in the High Street.

That is what they did in the spring when the foot-and-mouth epidemic hit weekend breaks in the country. …

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