Retail Week, today
Apologies for not blogging yesterday, crazy day as we gear up to the subs barrier launching tomorrow, which is also the shortlisting day for the RW Awards. Today’s pretty hectic too - I’m out this afternoon with River Island CEO Richard Bradbury, seeing his new HQ in the rather unglamorous Hanger Lane, and this morning I was at the Ivy for the third in the series of retailer breakfasts in aid of the Textile Industry Children’s Trust.
I’ve always liked TICT chairman David Carter-Johnson, best known until recently for being CEO of Adams, and I like him even more since he introduced me as the “ever-suave” editor of Retail Week this morning. I have a stinking cold today and actually feel anything but suave but the thought was nice. We were talking about private equity with Debenhams chairman and serial dealmaker John Lovering, and Peacocks very likeable boss Richard Kirk, and had a really good discussion.
As always it was all off-record but there was a healthy debate about the merits of private equity, and about the potential for exits next year. Lots of PE-backed retailers, led by New Look and Pets at Home, are gearing up to float next year, but while they should succeed as long as consumer spending holds up, it may be that the valuations managements attach to some retailers turn out to be ambitious when they come to exit.
I was going to post yesterday on this article from the Guardian about Waterstones from Tuesday. I have to be a bit careful seeing as we’re half-owned by the Guardian but I’m no fan of the liberal hypocrisy on which it is built - it always amused me that its leading leftie columnist sent her daughter to the same private school in south London as me. Do as I say, not as I do. The Waterstones assualt is the worst example I’ve seen to date of the book world not realising that book retailers operate in the real world.
The fact is that Waterstones is the last show in town. The Guardian may well sneer - as it did in a picture used to illustrate the print version of the feature - at the sight of loads of shoppers at Lakeside queueing up to get a signed copy of Katie Price’s book, but that’s what Lakeside book shoppers want to buy. That Waterstones retains any presence as a serious high street bookseller is an achievement in iteself - look what’s happening to Borders - and if the book world had any sense they’d get behind it. Otherwise WH Smith, Amazon and Tesco will get the mass market on a plate, and speciality bookselling on the high street will die.