It was a week that most retailers would probably prefer to forget – seven days that shook the high street. From the grandest names to the most minor, the news has been uniformly grim.
Yesterday, the mighty John Lewis reported that its sales are running 9 per cent down on last year. Marks & Spencer, still Britain's leading clothes retailer, warned on Wednesday of sharply lower sales and profits, and promptly saw a quarter of its stock-market value wiped out. Last week also witnessed the bankruptcy of ScS, a medium-size furniture retailer, and ProCook, a chain of 39 cookery shops. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says private sales of new cars are almost 12 per cent down on last year.
Bradford & Bingley narrowly avoided the fate of Northern Rock on Thursday evening, when its efforts to raise fresh capital fell through for the second time and yet another rescue package had to be cobbled together by the authorities.
Taylor Woodrow, the country's largest housebuilding group, also faces an uncertain future, unable to raise the capital it needs and in danger of breaking its agreements with its bankers.