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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Is It May-Day For Some Retailers?

With many retailers reporting lower takings in the first quarter of this year and the UK falling in to a double dip recession, is it May-Day for some retailers?

With big established brand names like Mothercare closing 111 stores, putting 370 jobs at risk, Home Retail Group (Argos & Homebase) struggling, Carpet Right, WH Smith and even M&S it's definitely an SOS call for many retailers.

There are of course several companies bucking the trend and seem to be doing well out of the recession. Adidas for example reporting sales are up by 38% on last year, Unilever, Starbucks, AB World Foods - Primark, and the John Lewis Group all reporting profits are up, but overall more retailers are reporting sales are down than ones reporting they are up. Even the panic buying injection that impacted on March's rise wasn't enough to stop us dropping in to double dip recession.

It's not just the UK but all across the Eurozone with retail sales  in the three biggest economies:- Germany, France and Italy's all at their lowest since 2008, the second lowest on record.
History of May Day:

Our perception of May Day celebrations comes from the hangover of traditions in villages from medieval times where young men and women would dance round a maypole, which was made from brightly decorated branches and ribbons. The villagers hold on to the ribbons and dance round the pole, symbolising springtime and fertility. There was also a woman born on or nearest to May 1st that would be appointed a May Queen, and sometimes a May King, dressed in green. Pagan groups call May Day Beltane.
As with most traditions they can be traced further back; a festival existed in ancient Rome called Floralia which took place at the end of April and was dedicated to the flower Goddess Flora. On May 1 offerings were made to the Goddess Maia, after which the month of May is named.

In the middle ages the church tolerated the May Day celebrations but with the Protestant Reformation of the 17th century they soon came to an end as the racuous behaviour that often accompanied the drinking and dancing shocked puritans and in 1644 Parliament banned maypoles.

When Charles II was restored to the throne a few years later people put up maypoles in celebration. The Victorians made May Day popular again in the 19th century but a lot of the pagan symbolism in the days events were left out and instead of a fertility ritual, dancing round the maypole became more of a children's game.

In folklore it was said getting up before dawn and going outside to wash your face in the morning dew kept the complexion beautiful. Whilst getting up early the gathering of flowers to 'Bring in the May' for making in to garlands to pass to friends and family during the festivities was also a tradition, as well as the giving of May baskets of flowers as gifts.

So lets hope today's ancient festival of new beginnings, fertility and abundance helps to boost the retail sector, and our struggling retailers manage to weather the storm and survive. The Olympics should give the retail sector a lift with companies investing in lots of promotional materials themed with this and other events taking place this year.

A shaky start to the year for most but as the year progresses, and the events unfold it should give the retail sector a well needed revival.

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