James Lowman_ACS (2018)

Looking ahead to next year, the prevailing message despite fantastic early progress on vaccinations is that the battle with Covid-19 is certainly not over. It’s clear that the early part of 2021 will be determined by how strict and how extensive the lockdown measures will be before we can build toward some level of normality. As a sector we learned a huge amount during the first wave of Covid-19, so I’m confident that stores will continue to innovate and adapt to best meet the needs of customers locally. Of course, this comes as no comfort to the stores that have been really struggling in city centres and transport hubs, so we will be pushing the Government to ensure that any further restrictions come with further support for those most heavily affected.

When we do eventually move away from tier restrictions, one of the biggest challenges for retailers is going to be how to maintain the momentum that has been built during the times when local communities have had to rely on them. Whether it be home deliveries, a wider range of food to go, or providing enough variety to allow for a full week’s grocery shop, thousands of stores have changed their offer in 2020 and will be keen to ensure that this is sustainable in the long term. It’s unlikely that we’ll just flip a switch and go back to the way things were before Covid-19, but finding a balance between tapping into what used to be the ‘normal’ trends and looking at ways to build new products and services is going to be key in 2021.