OUR HIGH STREET HERO
EVEN those who don’t follow the business pages will know that the high street is in danger of becoming a thing of the past. Consumers are turning their backs on traditional “bricks & mortar” stores in favour of online retailers, taking advantage of 24-hour shopping, convenient delivery options and the chance to compare prices in seconds.
But there is one man, a man with very deep pockets, who keeps throwing ailing shops and brands a lifeline, seemingly with the intent of saving what’s left of an institution upon which he built his fortune.
I’m talking about Mike Ashley, the intriguing billionaire Sports Direct founder whose retail portfolio now includes, among others, French Connection, USC, luxury boutiques Flannels, lingerie brand Agent Provocateur as well as Newcastle United Football Club.
His most recent acquisitions include heritage department store House of Fraser and as I write, there is talk he will buy out the ailing Debenhams chain (he already owns a 28% share in the business).
It goes without saying that he is the most powerful retailer in
I WOULD like to buy my mum a pretty scarf for Mother’s Day, something light weight she can wear in spring as an accessory. What do you suggest?
SCARF is a lovely gift and they are the perfect accessory! I love this one from Oliver Bonas, in a spring colour this country, with enough stores open to influence landlords to offer attractive rents, (crippling rents is said to be one of the major reasons many businesses can’t sustain their place on the high street).
I like to think he believes there is a high street model that can work, that department stores in all their brightly lit perfumed counter glory aren’t necessarily an archaic notion.
As a businessman Mike Ashley isn’t anti e-commerce, his turnover includes hundreds of millions in online sales, so what is it he does differently?
I shop on the internet for the same reasons we all do, shopping from my phone at anti-social hours, no parking fees, no queues and the world’s best shops at my finger tips.
But I still love shopping in stores, from being able to touch the merchandise before I buy it, to the thrill of walking away from the till swinging my purchase in its bag. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this retail titan has some tricks up his sleeve so shops, as we know them, don’t become the stuff
of folklore. but with a modern print. ■ Gradient Leopard Print Scarf, £24 (oliverbonas.com).
■ Joanne is a stylist and personal shopper with more than 16 years’ experience in the fashion industry. Email: Joannecwatkin[email protected]