As Bill Clinton said in 1992, "It’s the economy stupid!"
You’d have to have buried your head in the sand of late not to realise that things have changed, or are about to take a turn for the worse, on the economic front.
From the Euro debate, the Greek bad-debt situation, the jobless figures and now the news on the inflation front - it is hard for both retailers and manufacturers alike to stay positive and keep their ship afloat, sailing in the direction they had planned for.
That is why it is good to see in this issue how two of the biggest names in the industry are diverging in a bid to enter new markets. Firstly it was Warburtons, with its shock announcement that it was now selling its products via Tesco in three different European countries. As chairman Jonathan Warburton explains on page 4, the company has more than 135 years of heritage that it can draw on to take into this new market.
Initial reports from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia are good and Warburtons hopes to be able to expand its offering into different regions by 2012.
Greggs, too (page 4), is another company in the sector that is stretching itself. Hot on the heels of its announcement of an upmarket Greggs Moment store comes the news that the well-known bakery brand will soon become available on the nation’s highways and byways. The move to open a franchise outlet at a motorway service station in Cheshire is an innovative one and takes Greggs on the road to new customers and markets. A similar move by Waitrose has also paid dividends. And, considering the amount of time we now spend on the roads, why not?
However, there is one road in the UK that is suffering and that is the high street. At the recent British Society of Baking conference in Warwickshire, John Waterfield of Waterfield’s, based in Leigh, gave an honest assessment of life in the retail environment(see pages 22 and 23). He criticised a lack of "joined up thinking" when it came to shops on the high street, pointing to planning, the major supermarkets and parking. It is hard not to agree with his assertions.