Iceland boss Malcolm Walker has celebrated opening Iceland’s 800th store with a thinly veiled attack on former Iceland CEO Bill Grimsey, who released a report this week putting forward his vision of how to revive ailing UK high streets.
“When my colleagues and I returned to rescue a grossly mismanaged business in 2005, we initially closed or sold a number of stores,” said Walker, at the opening of the Iceland store in Beccles, Suffolk. “However, over the last four years we have opened a total of 145 net new Iceland stores around the UK, creating more than 4,000 new jobs, and we are on track to exceed our target of adding a further 40 new stores in our current financial year.”
More than 20,000 retail businesses are on the brink of closure according to new figures to be included in Bill Grimsey’s review
“At a time when certain individuals are pontificating on the grim future of the high street, perhaps reflecting their own track record of failure in this arena, it is worth pointing out that the majority of our new store openings are in high-street locations, and are generating good sales and returns on our investment.
“Beccles is an interesting example of our expansion strategy, taking us into a town where we have not been represented before, on a modern high street immediately next to Laura Ashley, and adjacent to branches of Holland & Barrett, Costa coffee and Fat Face. It is also close to a large Tesco Extra store. This demonstrates our ability to appeal to new customers in areas well beyond Iceland’s traditional heartlands, and to meet the strongest competition head-on.
“This in turn reflects growing recognition of the quality, value and innovation represented by the Iceland brand.
“With our expanding presence on the high street complemented by our growing online shopping business in the UK and expansion overseas, the future of Iceland has never looked brighter than it does today.”
In his independent review of the high street, officially launched at an event today, Bill Grimsey unveiled 31 recommendations, including a call for a one-off levy on big chains to help regenerate town centres.