Posted: 12/02/2019

“Even the supermarkets’ food figures seemed to hold up over Christmas. It was homeware and clothing that did for them.”

View from HQIt’s a curious month, January. 

 I find myself playing out my annual Groundhog Day.  Should I stop drinking for the month? I join the local swimming club (again) and vow to lose a stone.  But if I’m honest it’s the yearly how-was-your-Christmas analysis that claws me out of festive hibernation.

It kick-starts the year and helps me to get into positive mode (normally) and by Jove, we need some uplifting food business vibes right now.  

And it really wasn’t too bad, was it. Expecting worse? I was. Even the supermarkets’ food figures seemed to hold up. It was homewares and clothing that did for them. 

Having read FFD’s analysis online ( I’m liking the fact that shopping in high-end food shops is becoming part of the Christmas experience, as Macknades’ Stefano Cuomo puts it. 

But I don’t want this column to be all rose-tinted puff.  That’s not balanced or indeed accurate. There were a couple of high-profile closures over Christmas and into the New Year and I’m sure there will be more.

The total mystery and uncertainty concerning our exit from the EU is certainly causing problems, more from that same mystery and uncertainty than from reality. For me, it‘s still the demise of the high street that is most concerning. And our close cousins in foodservice seemed to have also had a poor 2018.  The high-profile closures in Jamie’s Kitchen, Strada and Byron made headlines and were sad for those employees who lost out.  

But should we be worried about that? Having grumpily walked out of Jamie’s in Bath last year I’m reckoning it might be a good thing.  Is it yet another message from the food lovers of Britain (and Ireland) that ‘ordinary’ ain’t cutting the mustard? Are we beginning to see through the style-over-substance nature of these low-brow restaurant chains in the same way that we are seeing through the faux farms that the supermarkets create for their produce sections? I am sure there are genuine economic reasons for their woes, but perhaps those chains just weren’t good enough?

Maybe that’s my message for 2019. Be good enough. No, be great enough. Great customer experience (have you had your free mystery shop report from Insight6, retail members?), great food and drink in store (come to Fine Food Show North) and run an altogether great shop (our GFF Deli Code launching this Spring will help you there).  2019 – Make Britain Great Again.  Mmm, that’s quite good. Someone should coin that phrase.

To read more opinions from John  click here

Return to the top