Retailers need to look beyond the Olympics for the “feel-good factor”

On announcing all but flat sales growth for July, British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson crossed his fingers and declared hope that the “feel-good” factor generated by Team GB’s medal haul would boost consumer confidence and bring retailers better news in August.

Russell Parsons

Robertson will know as well as anyone that medal success is not the key to higher sales. Only creative thinking and innovative marketing will overcome the challenge of a still flat economy.

Retail sales rose 2% in June, BRC figures showed, below inflation and also behind the 3.5% uplift registered in June. This despite warmer July weather and extended Sunday opening hours in the capital at the end of the summer.

Retailers, alongside the advertising industry and no doubt Government ministers, have been pinning many of their summer hopes on a London 2012 boost. The theory went that shoppers would somehow sideline their cautious inclination borne from economic insecurity and spend for Britain in the wake of a successful Olympic Games. Many influential observers, however, have poured scorn on the Olympic bounce theory and with sales in the capital expected to be flat at best during the Games , there is precious little evidence of a bounce either.

It is likely that the Games will provide some in the retail sector with reasons to be cheerful. Supermarkets shelves might empty a little quicker. Specialist cycling and running stores are also likely to benefit from the spike in interest in all things sporty.

It is unrealistic, however, for this to provide anything more than the smallest of bumps. News from the Bank of England that the UK economy will not grow at all this year rather than by 2 per cent as previously forecasted will have resonated more strongly with retailers than any “feel-good” factor.

So, rather than pinning hopes on the Olympics, the weather or indeed any other unpredictables, retailers need to tackle the economic situation by offering consumers value and an unbeatable customer experience.

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