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FTSE 350: Mixed festive trading highlights high-street retail challenge

General retailers face an uphill battle to reinvent the UK high street
FTSE 350: Mixed festive trading highlights high-street retail challenge

'General retailers’ refers to a disparate set of companies, but many will face common challenges in 2019. In short, while it isn’t an entirely fruitless place for investors, the high street remains a tough place to forge a successful retail business. At the same time, the growing popularity of online shopping is undimmed, and will force many retailers to continue to invest heavily in their e-commerce platforms.

For those retailers who have already made online investments, the festive trading period was generally strong, and offers some comfort for a difficult year ahead. But even those who have been slow to adapt could finally be getting their act together.

Take high street stalwart Marks and Spencer (MKS). The company was a permanent fixture in the business press headlines in 2018, as speculation swirled about the retail chain's future as stores were closed, and a raft of high-profile management appointments were made to steady the ship. Amid the turmoil, chairman Archie Norman used last summer's annual meeting to warn investors that there would be no “quick fix” for M&S’s current woes, and that financial results for “the next two years” were “not the most important thing”. In other words, shareholders should realise that turning around a juggernaut like M&S requires time – and plenty of patience.

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