Can Retailers Ever be Rich?

The 2018 Sunday Times Rich List was published on Sunday 10 June, prompting an in-depth blog post from Boland Party’s UK agent Mark Brett. Mark published the post on his blog – thepartyblog.org – later that day, musing on the picture we are given of the state of UK retail and what the infamous Rich List really reveals. Here’s a truncated version of that post – click here to see Mark’s comments in full.

“Rich retailers… are there such things in the UK?

A large chunk of this post comes directly from the 2018 Sunday Times Rich List. I have gone through all 1,000 in the list and extrapolated the UK retailers (online and bricks and mortar) and wholesalers (as they are part of the retail chain). Here are the top five featured in the list.

  1. The Weston Family (Associated British Foods empire includes Primark and Selfridges) £10.05bn
  2. Barclay Brothers (Shop Direct ) £7.4bn
  3. Tom Morris (Home Bargains) £3.49bn
  4. Sir Anwar Perez (Bestway Cash & Carry) £3.02bn
  5. Mike Ashley (Sports Direct) £2.44bn

What drew my interest was the split was between bricks and mortar and online retailers. With the intense pressure on the high street, I was expecting to see a greater proliferation of internet entrepreneurs, yet this does not seem to be the case.

An internet retail entrepreneur does not appear until much later (the Kamani family, Boohoo.com,  £723m) and it’s worth remembering that while many high street operators are also online, the online share of the businesses at the top of the list is relatively small.

Despite continuing store closures among the less successful, many of the top retailers in this list are still highly successful and very profitable. On the other hand the internet entrepreneurs are not yet creating real wealth. For example Ocado traded at a loss until recently, ploughing everything back into the business.

Online retail might be taking sales off the high street (and so affecting margins and profits), but many are creating revenues and struggling to turn this into a profit. There is much evidence to support this such as Tesco Direct being closed down. Even the ‘beast’ Amazon, did not show a profit for many years.

I think it will be some while before the internet ‘sales’ entrepreneurs impact on the more traditional wealth within the world’s rich lists. The change will happen though, of that I have no doubt.

So there are rich retailers in the UK but I suspect it will be a very different picture within ten years.”

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