RETAIL: Predictions for 2009

Retail sector expert says consumers will be looking for 'value for less money' next year.
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Consumers will continue to trade down in 2009, while the middle market retailers will suffer. That's the view of retail sector expert Gareth Whiley from Silverfleet Capital, the European mid-market private equity house, who has given his predictions for the retail sector and M&A activity in 2009.

"It's looking very bleak for retailers generally, but there are exceptions within this generalisation," Whiley commented. "The watchword for several years now has been value for money. In 2009, it will be value for less money. Consumers will continue to trade down.

"Non-branded value retailers such as Primark and Aldi and branded discounters such as TJ Hughes have seen a marked shift.

"Contrary to some predictions, luxury brands will suffer as 'mass affluent' money dries up. This tiem round the recession is a Home Counties recession and not a manufacturing recession."

Whiley continued: "Some suppliers will go to the wall and may take unprepared retailers with them. There is a reall mood amongst retailers that, given the threat of the internet, vast over-expansion of retail space and the economic outlook, the fundamental rental model has to give somewhere.

"The middle market, such as M&S, Next and Debenhams, is likely to continue to suffer as people seem willing to 'skip' over it to go straight to value and discount retailers.

"The internet will remain important - primarily for price-driven shopping. There may be a chance for established retailers to grow market share as people turn to trusted brands and they are able to return goods to stores if they are unsuitable, provided their prices are competitive."

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