'Super Thursday’ results creating smoke and mirrors


'Super Thursday’ is perhaps the biggest retail reporting day of the year, certainly of the post-Christmas period. 

Today’s results are a mixed bag, but much of it is smoke and mirrors, say Retail experts at global real estate advisor Colliers International.

Dan Simms, Co-head of Retail Agency, Colliers International:

“Today’s results are a mixed bag – those retailers that we expected to perform poorly, have done. But overall, there hasn’t been the ‘Armageddon’ that the industry was fearing. Having said this, many retailers are being cautious about the information they are disclosing at this stage. We currently have a fragmented snapshot of sales figures, but only some hints about bottom line margins and profits. 

“I suspect that a number of retailers sacrificed profit for sales over the 2018 festive period, starting with Black Friday and continuing all the way through until Christmas eve. Those that didn’t participate in Black Friday may have fared moderately better, but the truth is that the retail landscape is becoming increasingly competitive.

“This is no more apparent than at John Lewis & Partners, which has hinted today that its usual staff bonus may be cut – further evidence that even the most stalwart of high street retailers are finding it ever more difficult to compete and preserve margins.”

Mark Charlton, Head of Research & Forecasting, Colliers International:

“To be meaningful, consistent metrics over a consistent time period should be reported by all retailers. 

“Aldi has been trumpeting a 10 per cent growth in sales figures, but we must remember that it has also aggressively expanded over the last 12 months, growing its number of stores by over 8 per cent. The strong growth in year on year sales is driven primarily by store expansion; like for like growth in its mature portfolio is quite limited.

“It is these kinds of details, which retailers have been omitting from today’s results, that may present a clearer – and more sobering – picture once fully known.”

John Webber, Head of Rating, Colliers International:


“The poor results of several of the high street retailers today are not altogether unsurprising particularly when you see the increased costs such businesses are paying at a time when they are competing with the pure internet retailers and trying to overcome the dent to consumer confidence. 

“High business rates, although not the only factor in their rising costs, will have taken their toll, particularly as there is no room to negotiate the bills. With M&S paying a business rates bill of around £295 million, House of Fraser £40 million and Debenhams £76 million – these are massive amounts of money to pay out at a time of economic uncertainty.

"I'd like to say that the situation will improve in 2019, but businesses who weathered the storm over Christmas will be hit with further business rates rises in the Spring – with top rises as high as 49 per cent -the third year of staggered increases since the 2017 Revaluation. We could very well see the multiplier (the rate poundage against which the rateable value of the property is multiplied to give the final rates bill) rise to over 50 per cent for the first time ever. 

“Such rises could be the thin end of the wedge for many retailers and sadly I forecast more closures and job losses in the year ahead, particularly as the Government is too preoccupied to deal properly with this crisis and introduce proper business rates reform."