Welcome to the July Grocery Trader. We’re now midway through a very tough year all round. The latest ONS figures show the UK economy contracted 2.4% in the first three months of this year, the worst such drop since the second quarter of 1958. The ONS now reckons the current recession began during the second quarter of last year, which means we’ve been officially in recession for a year. Not a happy birthday.


Life goes on at The Grocery Trader – we have features this month on Back To School, Ethnic Flood & Drink, Fridges Chillers & Air Conditioning and Snacking.

We also have a major profile of NCR’s SelfServ Checkouts. NCR is the market leader in self-checkouts, which are rapidly being adopted by retailers worldwide and set to reach nearly 250,000 units globally by 2012. We interview Greg Mann, NCR’s SelfServ Checkout solution specialist for EMEA, about the technology’s benefits for shoppers and retailers.

Meanwhile the Treasury remains confident but cautious about the prospects of the UK economy recovering. So too does Andy Clarke, Chairman of the CBI distributive trades panel and Asda’s COO. Talking about June’s weak overall retail sales figures, Mr Clarke reckons life on the high street isn’t getting any easier, but as a consolation, it isn’t getting any worse either. Clearly a cautious man, he reckons it’s too early to foresee a sustained uplift in retailers’ fortunes over the coming months.

Meanwhile CBI figures showed stock levels in June at their lowest since two years ago: on the plus side, orders placed with suppliers in June were their strongest since March 2008.

If you want more cheering up, there’s always music – and that’s definitely true in retail sales at the moment. The last time the UK was in such a deep recession as this one was the second half of 1980. Then as now, the shock death of a controversial but much loved pop star meant good news for music sales – it was John Lennon in December 1980, now it’s Michael Jackson who’s got the punters rushing to buy up their back catalogues in store and, these days, online.

And while the good weather’s here and the sporting calendar continues, the summer means we’ve got plenty to keep us feeling cheerful, with consumers wanting to enjoy themselves as best they can afford, which keeps them coming back into their local stores.

Have a good month.

Charles Smith, The Grocery Trader

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