2020 was a year like no other and there were challenges that we had simply never seen or imagined before.
Covid-19 brought in the need for dramatic changes to take place at speed, with store owners having to conduct full safety assessments, so they could continue to trade and ensure that their staff and customers were safe.
Stores introduced one-way routing, social distancing rules, face masks, hand sanitisers, screens at till point.
We should be proud of our response to the community needs of the country and our health workers in particular. Our ability to adapt our business models and grasp some of the digital and delivery service opportunities. We must commend our colleagues who have served night and day to deliver an amazing job in serving our communities. Innovation and community engagement have been the shout-out features of our sector’s response to this unprecedented public health crisis.
Retail has been divided in two, the winners and the losers. The winners are clearly the online retailers, who have continued to surge ahead of their counter parts who are embedded in bricks and mortar. This has escalated our sector to channel a shift to digital. I am sure that in 2021, convenience will accelerate the shift into deliveries and the digital channel. We know that every week across the UK, convenience stores are now making 600,00 home deliveries to customers.
However, there is added pressure on retailers with high-rent properties on the high streets and prime locations. Inevitably the move towards home working and restrictions on travel have decimated footfall in city and town centre locations. The long-term affordability and desirability of stores in city centres has and will be questioned.
Our sector has showed the way forward and we should never be afraid to try something different, to be different and create a USP.
There are very positive things we can build on: we now have 30% of the grocery sector. We employ more people in our sector than we have done in the last decade, more people want to enter our sector than ever before, and we are perceived to the ‘fourth emergency service’. Things can only get better.