The retail sector has experienced major financial challenges in recent years

Andrew HoskingPartner, Quantuma

Time for retailers to take stock

The UK’s retail sector has been fighting some prevailing headwinds for some time, as overheads increase, the move towards online shopping gains momentum, and footfall for bricks-and-mortar stores declines. Against this backdrop, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could not have come at a worse time: the lockdown kicked in just as the retail sector was about to hit its peak sales season, starving it of a desperately needed boost to flagging profits. With COVID-19 only exacerbating the financial challenges that retailers were already facing, many were forced to close their doors for good as ongoing economic uncertainty whittled away at consumer confidence and spending.

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A significant divergence in the impact on different retail sub-sectors

While the retail sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, one sub-sector has also emerged as one of its biggest heroes. Supermarkets have stepped up to the plate to feed the nation, keep customers and employers safe, and stay profitable in the process. However, there have also been some big swings by at sub-sector level, with growth in the food industry counterbalanced by a nosedive in non-food sub-sectors as consumers steer clear of buying discretionary items like furniture, clothing and homeware. 

Outlook

As the government begins to lift lockdown restrictions, the retail sector is now under pressure to take a long, hard look at how it can best adapt to the ‘new normal’ and the accelerating consumer shift towards online channels by fostering resilience, capitalising on growing customer trends and implementing different business models. In the post-COVID landscape, retail businesses with the foresight and agility to seize this opportunity for change stand to emerge from the crisis more resilient – and more profitable – than their peers.

How we can help

Our retail sector team works alongside businesses and their financial stakeholders to support them with the high-calibre, specialist advice they need. Backed by our combined experience, collective insight and deep sector knowledge, we pride ourselves on acting quickly and independently to deliver the best outcomes for our clients.

Recent projects include:

  • Acting as joint administrator for a UK-wide department store beauty concession
  • Advising the directors of i-Vapo, a leading UK e-cigarette business, on an accelerated sale
  • Acting as compulsory liquidator for Store 21, a UK-wide discount chain
  • Advising the directors of ladies’ fashion retailer, Genus UK T/A Select, on its CVA proposals.

Contributing Advisors

Mark LucasPartner, Quantuma

Jonathan ThorntonPartner, Quantuma