The Secret Marketer: Are retailers ready for foreign visitors?

After reading the continued bulletins of doom and gloom in the national media, I decided to take a couple of days out of the office this week to form my own view as to future trading prospects.

I was pleased to see a reassuring number of consumers out and about spending, but intrigued by where the tills were ringing. It appears that what we read in the press is completely true. The middle ground is hell and those stuck in it are facing continued misery.

As Tesco reported its worst Christmas trading performance for 20 years, one analyst described the brand’s problems perfectly by concluding that it has become stuck in no man’s land. Picked off by the likes of Waitrose on quality and by the discounters on price, Tesco is the new Sainsbury’s.

It is a timely reminder to us all that during boom times we must always be aware of the inevitable pincer movement. Being bigger and more dominant does little to protect you – if anything it makes you a whole lot more vulnerable.

As La Senza, Peacocks, HMV and a whole host of other high street strugglers either enter or fend off the threat of administration, it is telling to look at what happened to Woolworths stores. Most are now pound stores with sector leader Poundland reporting 25% annual sales growth due to this timely expansion and even returning a 6% rise in like-for-like sales at its existing locations.

As part of my retail audits, I visited out-of-town factory outlet Bicester Village. I haven’t been there for a while and couldn’t help but notice the new sign as I arrived, which read: Bicester Village Chic Shopping.

The place was busy, demonstrating that Bicester has got it right with its designer brands at discount prices proposition.

I was staggered by the number of Chinese tourists who were giving their credit cards a good workout. Bicester buses them in daily from central London hotels with the promise of chic shopping for a £23 return fare, which is smart marketing in anybody’s book. Even the ads in the outlet’s toilets are scripted in Chinese. I admire Bicester Village management’s clever segmentation and proactive approach to getting valuable customers through its doors.

Meanwhile, Waterstone’s obsesses about whether or not it should have an apostrophe in its logo. God help it…

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here