The chubby grocer, Lord Mark Price was the keynote speaker at the NSF conference last week, always a great speaker he was on top form talking about his view on what a trade deal post Brexit will be for an independent team GB

Mark joined Waitrose in April 2007, just before the financial crisis, therefore most of his time was business building in a financial crisis delivering growth in a squeezed sector that beat the predictions of the most optimistic analyst. When he began his leaving process he was called by David Cameron, then PM, to be Secretary of State for Trade & Investment, then Trade Policy and was despatched to investigate potential trade deals for the UK globally. He was told not to worry about referendum vote… then we voted out which rather changed things of course!

In Mark’s opinion food is one of the less well advanced retail and communicative sectors because of its lack of progress in online retail, it has been slow to adopt. Not as bad as white goods, but more and more trade will move online and away from the traditional trawl of the aisles. Our shopping patterns daily continue to change, the convenience move isn’t slowing either, and the proportion of meals outside the house is rapidly rising to meet that of the US.

The challenges if you are a retailer and why it all has to change:



  • 1. The Government have asked business to adopt the living wage, the consequence is that most retail has seen 5-6% increase in staff costs. Public finances are squeezed, we are looking at £45bn/year national debt, the living wage should have impacted on reducing the welfare state but in the meantime profits are falling as prices remain the same
  • 2. Rates – central government have cut local government funding by 20% over last 10 years, therefore funds need to be raised locally through rates, further adding to the pressure
  • 3. Rents – in a digital and internet world, retail cannot afford the historic rents and landlords are experiencing constant renegotiation requests as margins fall. Private pension funds and income for retirement accounts for most of the rental property market and this sector is seeing a pinch as middle market outlets suffer the most
  • 4. Brexit issues.

    • a. Sterling has fallen and so import costs have risen, consumers are resisting the increase. Mid market is suffering as costs cannot be passed on
    • b. Consumer confidence. GDP figures are better than recent forecasts, but we have the lowest growth rates in top 20 nations.

    There needs to be a massive structural change within these elements to survive the next five years.

    Mark shared a really tragic quote on the retail situation that ‘going out of business the day after lidl’ was the mark of success, so said the owner of Aldi… it’s a grim prediction for our retail landscape.

    And Soylent … its back (for those not familiar with the 1974 Charlton Heston film Soylent Green, it was a meal replacement made in a lab as the earth was too polluted to produce food by traditional means. The protein was found to have come from criminals) check out for your complete meal in a bottle.

    The impossible burger has been launched, potato starch strands, lots of yummy things like Xanthan gum to hold it together give it a meat like texture and to create that authentic meat look, smell and feel. Less damaging on the environment than a beef burger but frankly the ‘recipe’ was enough to send me veggie!