Happy New Year to you all, and I hope that we have every reason to be cheerful in 2019. At first glance, it seems like as an industry we will have more challenges than opportunities to deal with in the coming year but, then again, that has probably always been the case.

Some of those challenges have always been present in the convenience industry, but have escalated in the past year, notably crime. Wanton criminal acts are taking place daily in retail stores, but the response from police is at an all-time low, and the lack of action is merely encouraging criminals to carry on. As well as the threat to staff safety and wellbeing that this represents, theft also diminishes retail margin, which is already under pressure as costs are rising faster than sales in the sector.

However, there are plenty of opportunities, too. Local produce is growing in importance and small stores can often present this much better than international supermarket chains. And food to go remains full of potential as long as operators can continue to innovate and adapt to the latest consumer tastes and requirements.

But the biggest issue for 2019 is arguably something that convenience stores can do nothing about. The Brexit shambles is still shambling on without any clarity, and as long as this continues all businesses face both operational disruption and the shadow of falling consumer confidence. A No Deal Brexit could potentially disrupt the entire freight transport network and just-in-time delivery systems for food, with huge knock-on effects for product availability. Hopefully, we can step back from the brink and avoid a complete meltdown, but if we are going to make any progress as an industry we could really do with a year without own-goals.