As the saying goes, if you stay in the middle of the road for long enough, chances are you'll get run over. Today, the 'Big Four' are matched (or beaten) on quality and price by competitors and new arrivals. It's increasingly apparent that nobody really loves them, nor can they think of a reason to keep shopping with them anymore.
Supposedly manufacturing-free regions of the UK seem to actually have rather a lot of people making things. I know it's frustrating for the headline writers who would rather it wasn't the case, but the North West employing 340,000 people and making £20billion of goods in 2013 just doesn't follow the narrative does it? And what are 125,000 Geordies doing making £6.4 billion of stuff? I thought the paper said they were all strolling around the Quays pissed up and half naked in all weathers. British manufacturing is alive, it's well, it's kicking and it's cool.
The 'Made in Britain' label, it seems, is making a comeback. Marks & Spencer has done it for the high street, Mary Portas has done it for knickers, and my maternity wear label Tiffany Rose has done it for the plethora of pregnant women out there looking for beautiful, flattering and well-made dresses.
Responsibility is a mandatory for business - and it's about being mindful. Mindful of others feelings, experiences, ambitions and hopes. Mindful to avoid upsetting them. Mindful to make them happy. Mindful of the things that are important to them. Anyway, I was thinking about my own sense of responsibility (and hopefully integrity) in the context of my business interests and thought I'd explore some of the thinking behind the things I get up to and why I do them.
Business is strongest is when it's face-to-face with customers and the beautiful products can be displayed physically in an alluring way. I regularly tell retailers who moan about the web to work out how to compete effectively instead. Innovators in top up grocery shopping, web purchase collection and so on, understand that the future is omni-channel and are making money. Grenson shows us how a perfect customer experience makes people feel special and gets them buying. And everybody please remember, you can't get your hair done, grab a quick drink when you fancy it, have your shoes mended, collect your prescription or dry cleaning quickly on the web (yet).
With a lot of our rail infrastructure and most of Somerset under water, not to mention water levels continuing to rise across Britain it is fair to say we are in the midst of a national crisis. He might not be in the top ten list of people I love in retail, but when former Tesco CEO Terry Leahy spoke about the occasional difficulties brands have - from local service problems to major outage and inconvenience - his catchphrase was "never waste a good crisis". It stuck with me and comes to mind now; not least because I love a paradox. The idea of a major problem being an opportunity is a tough one for executives to grasp whilst it's all happening.
Small independents versus big chains; bricks and mortar versus online; Bill Grimsey v Mary Portas: the debate about the future of the high street is nothing if not divisive. But safeguarding the future health of our high streets means moving away from the confrontational approach so beloved of UK media to focus instead on partnerships.
This week the government questioned Mary Portas on the progress of the review and how it's helped to revive the high street, so far. Consequently, the review hasn't been successful and MPs have claimed it was a "waste of time" and a "failure". In response, Mary Portas has stated the government is to blame due to their lack of input. What's clear is a lot of blame has been bandied about, but what's not so clear is how the high street can be saved, and if there's still hope for it.