Prioritise resilience and adaptability, Bira urges indies

With difficult trading conditions likely to continue well into 2024, the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) is urging owners of independent retail businesses to “prioritise resilience and adaptability” over the coming months.

Amid the challenges, the Association says there are “important opportunities” for small retailers, including a drop off in interest in online retail and scope for more community collaborations.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira – of which Health Stores UK is a member – said: “While optimism usually accompanies a new year, we anticipate 2024 to be another challenging period given the prevailing pessimism in economic growth.

“We expect inflation to stabilise, and interest rates to remain where they are. Economic stability is crucial for us to focus on economic recovery. Bira recognises the need for a stable economic environment to empower its members and foster a climate conducive to business growth,” he said.

Goodacre added that consumer confidence also remained key. He said: “Consumers will still lack confidence and will be looking for value and strong brands.”

Bricks and mortar revival 

Contrary to the digital trend, Goodacre said Bira had noticed a surprising shift, adding: “The penetration of internet shopping declined in 2023, and we do not expect it to increase in 2024 – most people will want to buy in shops. This insight underscores the enduring importance of brick-and-mortar stores in the retail landscape.”

Bira also urged shops to not overlook other important opportunities.

 “The older generation represents a real business opportunity – higher levels of wealth and disposable income. We ask that retailers recognise the potential of this demographic,and not to ignore the often-retired generation’s significant purchasing power,” Goldacre said.

Looking locally, Goodacre said there were many opportunities in community collaboration. He added: “Other opportunities will still be local shopping and business communities working together to create a vibrant, diverse high street that people want to visit and where they want to spend time and money.”

Changing political landscape

Goodacre added that the political landscape also would have a huge effect on 2024. He said: “We will obviously have a general election, and while many may welcome a change of government, it will lead to a period of instability.”

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