Following its January sitting, the KPMG/Synovate Retail Think Tank (RTT) concluded that:
- Due to the accumulation of negative pressures from many quarters, 2010’s improvement in UK retail health came to a standstill in quarter 4, contrary to the Retail Think Tank’s expectations back in October’s meeting.
- The RTT’s Retail Health Index (RHI) remained at 87, the same level as quarter 3, ending the recovery in retail health which started in quarter 4 2009;
- RTT Members agreed that the many and varied negative forces on retail; political, emotional, environmental and financial, are likely to increase pressure on retail health in quarter 1, causing the RHI to backslide one point to 86, its first fall since quarter 2 2009;
- Quarter 4’s stall in the improvement in retail health showed how fragile the resurgence had been, and how, despite the resourcefulness and strong management of many retailers, the negative effects of external factors began to take their toll;
- Quarter 1 is, the panel concluded, likely to see both weaker demand and downward pressure on margins (both seasonally-adjusted).
- RTT Members expressed their hope that later in the year, perhaps as early as quarter 2, retail health will begin to recover once again.
The Retail Health Index compiled by the KPMG/Synovate Retail Think Tank
Date Published: 1/28/2011 4:50 PM
Note to Editors:
The RTT panellists rely on their depth of personal experience, sector knowledge and review an exhaustive bank of industry and government datasets including the following:
Members of the RTT are:
- Nick Bubb – Independent Retail Analyst
- Dr. Tim Denison – Ipsos Retail Performance
- Jonathan De Mello – Harper Dennis Hobbs
- Martin Hayward – Hayward Strategy and Futures
- Maureen Hinton – Conlumino
- James Knightley – ING
- Richard Lowe – Barclays Retail & Wholesale Sectors
- David McCorquodale – KPMG
- Martin Newman – Practicology
- Mike Watkins – Nielsen
First mentions of the Retail Think Tank should be as follows: the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank. The abbreviations Retail Think Tank and RTT are acceptable thereafter.
The RTT was founded in February 2006. It now meets quarterly to provide authoritative ‘thought leadership’ on matters affecting the retail industry. All outputs are consensual and arrived at by simple majority vote and moderated discussion. Quotes are individually credited. The Retail Think Tank has been created because it is widely accepted that there are so many mixed messages from different data sources that it is difficult to establish with any certainty the true health and status of the sector. The aim of the RTT is to provide the authoritative, credible and most trusted window on what is really happening in retail and to develop thought leadership on the key areas influencing the future of retailing in the UK. Its executive members have been rigorously selected from non-aligned disciplines to highlight issues, propose solutions, learn from the past, signpost the road ahead and put retail into its rightful context within the British social/economic matrix.
Definitions: The RTT assesses the state of health of the UK retail sector by considering the factors which influence its three key drivers.
1. Demand – Demand for retail goods and services. From a retro-perspective, retail sales, volumes and prices are the primary indicators. When considering future prospects, economic factors such as interest rates, employment levels and house prices as well as others such as consumer confidence, footfall and preferences are used
2. Margin (Gross) – Sales less cost of sales; the buying margin less markdowns and shrinkage. Cost of sales include product purchase costs, associated costs of indirect taxes and duty and discounts
3. Costs – All other costs associated with the retail operations, including freight and logistics, marketing, property and people
The Retail Health Index – how is it assessed?
Every quarter each member of the RTT makes quantitative assessments of the impact on retail health of demand, margins and costs for the quarter just completed and a forecast of the quarter ahead. These scores are submitted individually, collated and aggregated in time for the RTT’s quarterly meeting. The individual judgements on what to score are ultimately a combination of objective and subjective ones, drawing upon a wide range of hard datasets and softer qualitative material available to each member. The framework follows the example of The Bank of England Agents’ scoring system on economic intelligence provided to the Monetary Policy Committee.
The aggregate scores are combined to form the Retail Health Index (‘RHI’) which is reviewed at that meeting and occasionally revised after debate if members feel it appropriate. The RHI tracks quarter on quarter changes in the health of the UK retail sector and as such provides a useful and unique measured indicator of retail health. The index ‘base’ of 100 was set on 1 April 2006. Each quarter, it assesses whether the state of health has improved or deteriorated since the previous quarter. An improvement will lead to a higher RHI score than that recorded in the previous quarter, and with a deterioration leading to a lower score. The larger the index movement, the more marked the shift in the state of health.
The RHI has two main benefits. Firstly, it aims to quantify the knowledge of the RTT members in a systematic way. Secondly, it assesses the overall state of health of the UK retail sector for which there is no official data.
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