Former M&S Chief warns Brexit Britain must be prudent

We may not have seen any plague or pestilence since the British public took the decision to leave the European Union, but Lord Stuart Rose, former CEO of Marks and Spencer, predicts a period of uncertainty for British retailers.

He also advises UK retailers to “keep some money behind the clock”.

Speaking at Retail Week Live in London, Lord Rose said that more retailers should have stood up to be counted last year and embraced the Brexit debate publicly.  He bemoaned the demonisation of business and that captains of industry had found life easier by keeping out of the press.

Supportive of Sir Philip Green, he declared the Arcadia boss should not be stripped of his knighthood – and decried the culture of public humiliation which purveys the country.

Now chairman of Ocado, Lord Rose pulled no punches in his assessment of the prospects for the industry over the coming months.  “Consumer confidence is slipping,” he explained and noted that he expects inflation to go through the 2% barrier later in the year.

To this end, with the rate of change in customer behaviour so fast, retailers cannot afford to stand still. Lord Rose referred to board papers at M&S, which asked the question “will online really take off?” as late as 2002.

While it’s not party time for retailers, Lord Rose championed the sector saying it was “a great place to challenge yourself”. He concluded by saying that, if he’d had his time again, he would have embraced the challenge and welcomed the M&S role at an earlier stage in his career.

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