When Retailers Collapse

When Retail Brands Collapse

With the news that two iconic stalwarts of our High Street are to disappear, Andrew Busby takes a look at the emotional impact of retailers going out of business.

Last week received confirmation that was always on the cards; BHS, that iconic brand, will join Austin Reed and disappear from our High Streets.

Coming at the same time as the news of Austin Reed perhaps made the impact all the greater, both brands being an ever present landmark on the High Street for generations. Both sadly lost their way and with it their relevance to their customers. In the face of stiff competition from both the higher end designer labels and the bottom end discount fashion brands, squeezed in the centre without a raison d’etre, the outcome was perhaps inevitable. But rather than analyse the why (many column inches have already been filled on that subject) it is worth considering the emotional impact when a retail brand collapses. On the workforce unfortunately and regrettably but I am thinking here more of the impact on all of us, especially the consumer.

Despite its problems and challenges, many of us still recall Woolworths with some degree of affection and in particular their pick and mix. For those of us of a certain age, we can recall as children happily helping ourselves to the pick and mix on a Saturday morning whilst out shopping with our parents (naturally the author refrained from such activity). The brand became a part of our upbringing and our lives and from there an emotional attachment was born which lasted a lifetime. Maybe not always a happy relationship but nevertheless, one in which, I would contend, many of us enjoyed in ways in which we never would with brands from other sectors such as banking or technology or utilities.

And this is the thing; retail brands connect with us not just on a physical or pragmatic level but an emotional one in ways which brands from other sectors (with notable exceptions) would love to emulate.

When a retail brand collapses, in a way a part of us – our DNA if you like – goes with it. I would hesitate to suggest that we grieve when this occurs but it is something akin to this if only in our subconscious. Farfetched? Just consider for a moment your favourite brand and I would venture that it is very likely to be a retailer or close to; now think for a moment if they disappeared tomorrow. You get my point.

BHS and Austin Reed may be gone but, like Woolworths before, it will take a lot longer for them to be forgotten.


Andrew Busby is Retail Business Head at Zensar Technologies


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