CLOSING DOWN: It hasn’t been a good year on the British high street.

GIVEN the impact of the pandemic on British retail, it hasn’t been a good year on the high street. Yes, British high streets are being left empty as retail shrinks.

Topshop was left hanging by a thread and sagging at the seams (see what I did there?) before the brand was purchased by  a competitor and stores closed down, while Marks & Spencer’s profits are in decline. Meanwhile, hundreds of jobs at John Lewis are at risk pending the permanent closure of more department stores following Covid-19’s ‘economic earthquake.’

Overall, tens of thousands of retail jobs have been lost as chains struggle to run their cost-intensive bricks and mortar outlets alongside their faster-growing digital arms. And all these additional closures will put more pressure on empty high streets that are already grappling with holes left by the collapse of Debenhams and House of Fraser.


But department stores as a business model were already struggling pre-Brexit and pre-Covid. Probably better to specialise in a few areas like electrics or home wares and furniture etc and do it well rather than trying to keep a bit of everything under one roof.

But sometimes there are simply excuses for poor results. Companies that wheel out bland clichés such as ‘adverse trading conditions’ for profit warnings and other setbacks just aren’t trying. But some colourful explanations are more convincing than others.

Here are some top excuses. DFS, the furniture chain, claimed that the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, left customers too traumatised to buy sofas. Albert Fisher, the food group, blamed a chillier than normal North Sea for poor mussel production. Thorntons, the chocolate retailer, once claimed the weather was too cold for Easter eggs.

Meanwhile, Total, the oil explorer, blamed a swordfish puncturing a pipe for a three-day outage. Blacks Leisure blamed global warming and Glastonbury for a slump in profits. EMI blamed a creative block at Coldplay that delayed an album release for one profit warning while Fyffes said the impact of the fluctuating Brazilian ‘real’ currency on melon prices explained theirs. Bless!

Nora Johnson’s psychological crime thrillers ‘No Safe Place’, ‘Betrayal’, ‘The Girl in the Woods’, ‘The Girl in the Red Dress’, ‘No Way Back’, ‘Landscape of Lies’, ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ ( available online as eBook (€0.99; £0.99), Apple Books, paperback and audiobook. All profits to Costa del Sol Cudeca cancer charity.  

Nora Johnson’s opinions are her own and are not necessarily representative of those of the publishers, advertisers or sponsors.

Nora is the author of popular psychological suspense and crime thrillers and a freelance journalist.


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