Two steps forward and one step back is the new normal

“It seems that every time an upward trend in sales volumes seems to be emerge it’s quickly snuffed out. While disappointing, trades data are a reminder that despite some positive upward indicators, the ongoing squeeze on incomes means there’s a limit to how quickly growth can pick up”.

This reported comment from Simon Wells, HSBC’s chief UK economist, in the London E. Standard may seem to be a statement of the obvious but it bears repeating in a world where every tiny short term uptick is seized on as evidence of recovery from the global economic crisis.

Irrespective of who is to blame we should remember that high price inflation and minimal salary inflation plus the current uncertainty about employment have meant a real squeeze on incomes. Both businesses and consumers remain focused on paying down debt.

While confidence might rise this can only translate into a rise in credit and in people’s ability to service debts.

We are also in the midst of a global economic rebalancing that is shifting power and influence away from the so-called developed world to other economic centres and this is likely to take a long time to stabilise.

Every business, and not only the retail sector, that is looking at restructuring for growth needs to bear all this in mind whether it is considering developing exports or its home market.  It will be about focus on the longer term, about real innovation, about providing value for money and about close attention to customer service to achieve success and growth.

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