Welcome to the Ruck Blog!

Hello and thanks for visiting our blog - here you will find interesting articles on what's happening in the world of point sale, visual merchandising and display innovation.

Friday, 27 April 2012

What Does a Double Dip Recession Mean for Retail?

This week we have had the news that the UK has slipped in to a double dip recession, shrinking by 0.3 % in the last quarter of 2011 and preliminary figures suggest that the economy shrank again by 0.2 %  in the first quarter of 2012. There's no doubt times are tough and people are spending less but what does it mean for the retail sector?

Retail sales have dipped in April, and according to the CBI this is down to families cutting back on grocery shopping and big ticket items. A combination of high inflation and lack of pay rises are to blame. More retailers than not reported a decrease in sales.

A quote in the Guardian by Judith McKenna, chair of the CBI distributive trades panel and Asda's chief operating officer, said the situation on Britain's high streets remained fragile.
She said: "Consumers are still holding off from buying bigger ticket items, and opting to spend on smaller 'treat' purchases that give them a lift without breaking the budget.
"If as expected, inflation falls further later this year, we may see some growth in retail sales, but as long as high unemployment and sluggish wage growth dampen confidence, spending will remain tight."

The recession is not expected to last long according to leading economists and we are likely to return to growth almost immediately, and as is usual after recession grow between 4-5%. Most economists were not expecting us to even go in to recession but the massive decline in the construction sector had a big impact.

It looks likely according to several leading economists that it is a temporary blip and things will pick up, but some are warning that it may get worse before it gets better this year on the High Street.

What is a Recession?

A recession is two quarters of the year, back-to-back, where the size of the economy shrinks, as measured by GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Friday, 20 April 2012

Earth Day & The Consumer Demand for Eco Products!

Carrying on with our green theme this week, on Sunday it is Earth Day! Originally started in America the first Earth Day was held on April 22nd, 1962 to give political weight to growing concerns about the environmental impact we have on the earth. It is celebrated all over the world as environmental issues are now part of the everyday life, especially for the consumer. Modern consumers in the UK these days want to know where their products come from, what ethics lie behind those products in the company that makes them and what impact their purchase will have on other lives.

We see ethically traded and environmental logos of the various accreditation bodies that exist such as Fairtrade, The Rainforest Alliance, FSC, etc. on lots of products on the shelves. Many companies are also ISO 14001 accredited which shows they can manage and measure the environmental impact of the company and trace back the green credentials of their raw materials.

This is all very nice for companies to do but it starts with the consumer and is led by them! As our world has opened up with modern communications people have become more educated about the impact their buying power has on the environment and communities. Interestingly after documentaries on the dangerous conditions young children work in to harvest the cocoa bean, chocolate companies felt the pressure of consumers turning off from the idea children have suffered for their chocolate bar. You now see standard chocolate bars sporting the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade logo's as they want to reassure their customers that their chocolate is ethically sourced. It's the same with fairtrade coffee - no-one wants to drink a cup of exploitation in the morning.


There are always going to be the price led consumers who don't think about the life-cylce of the product, they just want it at the cheapest possible price, however the last 20 years or so have seen growth in the eco / ethical products sector. It was a luxury of the middle classes in a position to pay a little extra for ethically sourced products but over the last couple of years it's started filtering into every day products too as companies realise what their consumers want.

Many retailers are keen to offer a green image with their branding, even global fast food chain McDonald's now looks visually very green at their outlets, with campaigns about how they source beef locally in the UK, meeting consumer trends.

According to the Co-Operative's ethical consumerism report sales of ethical goods and services have remained quite consistent despite the economic downturn with growth of 9% since last year, up from £43 billion to £46.8 billion. There are some sub sectors such as organic food which decreased last year but overall there has been a healthy rise in ethical spending not just last year but significantly over the last decade.

So let's celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, celebrate our power as consumers and demand a better greener world!

Monday, 16 April 2012

National Gardening Week - The Retail Value of the Garden Sector

We all love to enjoy our gardens in the sun at this time of year and as the sun is starting to shine and things are starting to happen in the garden we all feel inspired! This week is National Gardening Week - nicely timed with the onset of spring when we all look at giving our gardens some TLC, but what is the value of this retail sector?

It's traditionally a growth sector in times of recession and economic downturn as people look to finding pleasures at home rather than expensive holidays abroad. There has also been a bit of a 'Good Life' style renaissance lately as people are starting to grow their own vegetables again. Many boroughs now have massively long waiting lists for allotments as they have come back in demand again, with both young and old. There are initiatives such as Landshare, started by Channel 4 off the back of the ever popular grow and cook style programmes, which connects growers with people who have land spare to offer...it's a concept that has really taken off as they currently have over 68,000 members.

There are even groups of gardening guerrilla's which overnight go and plant vegetables in public spaces in cities like London and Glasgow. Urban growing is becoming popular as people utilise roof tops and grow plants on buildings, making for some pretty spectacular looking urban greenery.
We have done quite a lot of installations in this sector, it's big business said to be worth around £4.6 billion for the UK economy according to the annual HTA Garden Retail Market Analysis report, and is becoming more popular year on year with 'Grow your Own' vege's being the biggest growth area (pardon the pun).

I know I spend a fair bit every year with the idea I'll turn into a fabulous gardener, and every year all that money is wasted on my not so fabulous garden...it takes more than splashing some cash it seems! Big DIY stores with Garden Centres are really selling the whole dream, where you can get everything under one roof from your garden furniture to your BBQ, as well as the plants and flowers. These huge warehouse style DIY stores take some merchandising with seasonal displays and promotional items all summer long from small seed display stands to huge promotional banners and signs, indoors and out.

The drought we have on this year may dampen our appetite for buying in to the dream of a luscious beautiful garden but I doubt it. More likely we will all wander round imaging what gorgeous gardens we could have if we just bought this....and that..!

To learn more about how to put on an event  or to attend one of the many events taking place over National Gardening Week visit: www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk