Uncertainty over Brexit has not extinguished retailers’ appetite for investment in 2019, with many taking a long-term view and planning cautious, well-considered improvements to their businesses.
Ensuring high levels of customer service and excellent store standards would be more crucial than ever in a post-Brexit environment, according to Dave Hiscutt, manager of Londis Westham Road in Weymouth.
“Brexit is important and of course there is the potential for some kickback but I think we are lucky in our industry,” he said.
“At the end of the day people will still need to eat and will still expect excellent customer service and store standards which means that we will have to continue investing.
“We are actually planning on installing three new card only self-checkouts in March. It will cost a significant chunk of cash but the checkouts will boost transaction times and free up staff to help customers on the shop floor, improving our service levels even further.”
Investment levels in the convenience sector have remained steady over the last year, with over £737m invested in the 12 months to November 2018, according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
“To date, we have not seen any evidence that the ongoing Brexit negotiations have had an impact on either current investment or reported future plans,” chief executive James Lowman added.
“However, with the vote taking place next week on what kind of Brexit we will end up with, retailers may begin to make more definitive plans and divert resources to cope with the short-term and long-term consequences.
“While we still don’t know yet what those consequences look like, we do know that to be successful, retailers will need to remain focused on providing the best offer for their local customers, which often requires investment,” he added.
Rav Garcha, who owns six Nisa stores in the West Midlands, also stressed the importance of careful investments. “We will certainly be investing across our stores throughout the year, but we are yet to decide where the money will be going,” he added.
Other retailers are planning to bide their time.
Nigel Dowdney, owner of the Earlham Shopper & Stalham Shopper in Norfolk said: “For me to invest in these current times, I would need to see what the outcome of Brexit is first.”
Mike Humphries, owner of Kenninghal Stores (Premier) in Norfolk expressed a similar view: “I’m interested in an opportunity to buy a store in a nearby village which is under-performing. But otherwise I’ll be hunkering down and preparing for what lies ahead.” he added.
MPs will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday, 15 January, government sources have confirmed.