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BIRA: Navigating the challenges and opportunities of 2024

This month, Andrew Goodacre, ceo of BIRA talks about the months ahead and how independent retailers can navigate the changes, challenges and opportunities ahead.

As we stand in the first few weeks of the new year, it’s essential for businesses across the nation to brace themselves for what lies ahead.

While optimism is a powerful force, it is equally crucial to acknowledge the challenges that loom on the horizon. The coming year, unfortunately, is poised to be another uphill battle for many, given the pessimistic outlook for economic growth.

One of the primary hurdles we anticipate is the need for businesses to weather economic instability. The expectation is that inflation will stabilise, and interest rates will hold steady.

Achieving economic stability is paramount for businesses like ours, as it paves the way for a focused effort on recovery. In the face of economic uncertainty, resilience and adaptability will be the keys to not only survive but thrive.

Consumer confidence, or the lack thereof, remains a persistent issue. As we navigate through 2024, it’s evident that consumers will continue to prioritize value and strong brands. The economic challenges are likely to perpetuate this mindset, necessitating businesses to strategise and deliver products and experiences that resonate with the discerning consumer.

Interestingly, the dynamics of retail are expected to witness a unique shift. Contrary to the trends of the past, the penetration of internet shopping experienced a decline in 2023.

Surprisingly, this trend is anticipated to persist into 2024, with a majority of people preferring the tangible and immersive experience of in-store purchases. This insight reshapes the way businesses approach their online presence and underscores the importance of creating compelling in-person shopping experiences.

Amidst these challenges, a silver lining emerges in the form of the older generation. Often overlooked, the retired demographic represents a significant business opportunity. With higher levels of wealth and disposable income, retailers neglecting this demographic do so at their peril. Tailoring products and experiences to meet the unique preferences and needs of the older generation could prove to be a lucrative strategy in the coming year.

Beyond individual strategies, the synergy within local shopping and business communities becomes an invaluable asset. The decline of online shopping is accompanied by a resurgence in the appeal of local high streets. Opportunities lie in collaborative efforts among businesses to create vibrant, diverse shopping environments that attract consumers not just for transactions but for the experience. Fostering a sense of community will be instrumental in making high streets the go-to destinations for both residents and visitors.

As we anticipate the challenges and opportunities of 2024, it’s essential to recognise the political landscape we’ll navigate. The impending general election, while potentially bringing about a change of government, also carries the weight of instability. Businesses must be prepared to adapt swiftly to new policies and regulations that may arise post-election.

2024 presents a landscape of challenges and opportunities that demand strategic foresight and adaptability from businesses. As we gear up for the year ahead, let us not only acknowledge the hurdles but also embrace the potential for growth and innovation that lies within. By staying resilient, connected, and attuned to the needs of our consumers, we can chart a course through the uncertainties and emerge stronger on the other side.

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