A 'lost year' in retail

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It’s that time of year again. We have completed next year’s Easter egg orders, the nights are drawing in, and with The X Factor and Strictly back on TV (groan), Christmas is in the air.

It’s now that I start to finalise my business planning for next year, and never have I looked back at the previous year’s plans and seen so many abandoned objectives.

It’s easy to blame the Booker and Tesco merger announcement for my lack of progress this year. But in truth there has been so much uncertainly in our world that I am pretty sure my 2017 ‘wait and see’ strategy would still have been employed.

In my case, I have put off a full refurbishment of our Hassocks store, along with an IT platform upgrade. Deciding what direction to take the store has now become a huge priority and with such a big capex requirement, I am tussling with just how radical I want to be.

We know the store must be able to absorb further labour cost increases, so changing the IT and till systems will become paramount to increasing productivity and ultimately reducing labour costs. We know that food to go is likely to continue increasing, along with more requirement for good-quality fresh foods backed up by lots of local alternatives. We know the strength of having in-store concessions, and we know that any long-term reliance on sugar, tobacco or alcohol is probably a bad way to design a store.

So, on reflection, my 2018 objectives have become more concise and manageable and, barring any January surprises, the ‘wait and see’ strategy will hopefully be confined to what may become known as my ‘lost year’ in retail.

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