The world is a very different place after the rollercoaster ride that was 2016, the retail sector is certainly no different.
Here are the top 10 stories that made waves in the retail sector this year — as picked by Retail Gazette’s journalist Ben Stevens and editor Elias Jahshan.
The stories selected, listed in no particular order, are a combination of those that consistently landed in the weekly top 5 most-read stories on Retail Gazette’s website to stories that had far-reaching impacts beyond the retail sector.
The fall of BHS
The demise of BHS has dominated the headlines this year.
Not only did the once mighty British department store chain close all 163 of its stores, but 11,000 staff lost their jobs and 22,000 had their pensions put in jeopardy.
Once the initial shock of the heritage retailer’s disappearance from the high street had faded, what was left was a far more complex story of billionaires and black holes.
Both former owners — Sir Philip Green and the man he infamously sold the chain to for £1, Dominic Chappell — have come under fierce scrutiny from everyone: from MPs to the taxman.
The fallout has been huge, sparking a new government inquiry into corporate governance, earning Green the title of “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and his knighthood questioned, and his mulit-million pound superyacht the name “BHS Destroyer”.
The dispute over the who will plug the £571 million pensions deficit, who was responsible for the loss of so many jobs, and whether any criminal wrongdoing occurred looks set to continue well into 2017.
Sports Direct’s controversy
Another spectacular fall from grace comes from the discount sportswear retailer, owned by the eccentric billionaire Mike Ashley.
In the first of many large workers’ rights scandals of the year, Sports Direct’s main warehouse in Shirebrook gained notoriety after an investigation by The Guardian uncovered “Victorian” working conditions.
Not only did this contribute to the new government inquiry into corporate governance, but sparked a tirade of heated debate around zero hours’ contracts, and over foreign labour.
As the billionaire continued to drag his feet in sorting the controversial issue, the headlines piled up, largely focusing on the blunders of its founder.
These include pulling out a large wad of £50 notes during a press event at the Shirebrook warehouse to demonstrate he was looking after low paid workers; admitting her flew to work by private helicopter because it was more efficient; admitting on live television he was a “PR disaster”; and, most recently, being accused of trying to secretly film a group of MP’s at a surprise inspection.
Sainsbury’s Argos acquisition
The country’s second-largest grocery retailer acquired Home Retail Group — the parent company of Argos and Habitat