Given the tragedies and challenges occurring around the world this week, we would do well to remember the world is much, much bigger than we are – we are just one part of a massive cycle of change.
Most commentators say the direct effect of a Grexit on Britain will be limited, for example, but the eurozone is our largest export market, and with a referendum on our membership expected in this parliament we must wonder what the trickle-down impacts on our industry could be as customers, currencies and suppliers respond to change. Certainly the strength of the pound does not suggest inflation will re-emerge any time soon, despite some stories – and that’s before we even consider the effects of intense competition.
The pace of change globally is often staggering – but if you look back over the last 50 years-worth of The Grocer, many of the themes and trends impacting our industry are recurrent. With experience comes the ability to look at situations and recognise the need to respond to them quickly, as well as the importance of keeping them in context and not kneejerking. Because while the circumstances are specific and the pace has accelerated, chances are it’s all part of a cycle.
That cycle, in the context of bigger global themes and trends that connect us, is something we, as retailers, must keep in mind. While we call ourselves the UK retail sector, the market we operate in is entirely global – be it the supply chain we buy from, the network of companies we are part of, or the customers we serve. We must not fall into the trap of simply sparring with others about market share stats and who can claim to have the cheapest tin of beans this week.
A new report on the European food retail sector drives this home. It predicts a wave of cross-border consolidation in the coming decade, with fewer but much bigger players set to emerge. Whether such predictions turn out to be true remains to be seen. But there is an important message here regardless: while political union across Europe looks increasingly strained, the case for ‘ever closer union’ from a business perspective is stronger than ever.
Andy Clarke, CEO of Asda