Star comment: Some still taste success on the high street

There's good news out there too if you look for it.

A customer outside a branch of Greggs
A customer outside a branch of Greggs

All gloom and doom for 2022?

You don’t have to try too hard to find bad news, but there is also good news out there if you want to look for it.

Bite into this. Greggs had a good Christmas, and says its sales continue to rise.

Poundland has big expansion plans in the pipeline. Next has rung up £70 million more in sales than was expected over the festive period and has delivered another profit upgrade, while B&M has done so well that its employees are getting a bonus of an extra week’s wages this month.

The secret behind these four positive retail stories is no secret at all. The formula is to provide the public with what they want, give a good service, and be adaptable in the current changing times.

All those things are no guarantee of success, because even some businesses with a good track record and excellent reputation have struggled and in a few cases have gone under. Sometimes the tide is mercilessly against you, or businesses have simply had their day and diversifying into different fields in an effort to struggle on is not a realistic option.

Others shine brightly for a while as they tap in to some trend or fashion, but run into increasing difficulty as that trend or fashion begins to wane.

It is tough to make predictions, especially about the future, as the great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra once said. Right product, right service, right time, can owe as much to luck as to planning.

Nevertheless these retail achievements show that it can be done and, while nobody can pretend it’s all sunshine and roses in the current retail environment, it is proof that there is success to be had on the high street despite its much-reported demise and the challenges of Covid.

Details of the 1921 census which have now been made public naturally depict a very different Britain from the Britain of today.

In the 100 or so years since then, there have been multiple revolutions, in technology, in society, in medicine and, not least – and something that cannot be easily discerned from reading old documents – in the way people think, which is shaped by collective experience.

We can study the past, but should be careful when judging it. Anybody time travelling from 1921 to 2022 would probably be unsurprised by space exploration or our fancy cars – they might in fact be disappointed at an apparent lack of progress – but would be astonished by our attitudes.

Quite possibly they would think we had all gone mad.

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