I judge the economic climate through my customers and many are struggling, with those who lost their jobs still unemployed and others struggling with the burden of debt.
The recent increases in fuel prices have made a big impact, and the result is that my average customer has probably £10 a week less to spend with me and other retailers, and I am seeing yet another wave of wholesale price increases.
I was one of many that welcomed the change of government, but I am under no illusions that they can turn things around quickly and, as they continually remind us, there are tough times ahead.
I am excited about the prospect of a coalition in that it provides a balance to the extremes of a one-party government. First and foremost, we might see the burden of bureaucracy lifted from our shoulders. It seems that an increase in VAT is inevitable and it’s going to be a nightmare to implement. I just hope that we get a reasonable period of notice rather than a ‘midnight on Budget Day’ job.
It will be difficult with pricemarked stock if there is little notice, and I will have to absorb some losses, but then I don’t think I am alone in having reaped some benefits from last year’s VAT decrease.
I am disappointed that the National ID card scheme has been shelved, as I had always seen it as the solution to underage sales. With the Lib Dems proposing a much tougher stance, I don’t want to have to start to fear that one mistake could bring the integrity and possible survival of my business into question.
There is also speculation about the ban on below-cost selling of alcohol, which in principle is good news for us retailers, but I am very wary of how effective this will be and whether the multiples will really let us have a level playing field.
Regardless of the gloom, the sun has been shining over the past few weeks, which always makes my tills work harder. I suspect that with the ash clouds, BA strikes and rising fuel prices more people will be staying local, which has to be good for us all.
Then we have the extra bonus of the World Cup. Come on, England!