Richard Hibbert

Retailers need to adapt quickly to Brexit

KBSA national chair Richard Hibbert considers the challenges of Brexit and how the year ahead may look for the KBB industry.

As we move into 2021, the uncertainty that was ever present in 2020 is set to continue. Brexit has moved on, with the agreement of a trade deal, which is welcome, but details are still emerging. We have been told to prepare, but apart from getting an EORI number to enable us to trade with Europe, not many people seem to know what will happen next.

It is likely we will experience more red tape, possible delays and potentially rising prices in the months ahead. Retailers will have to adapt quickly as the situation develops, but this is a skill we have had to develop over the past 12 months.

Brexit is not the only challenge that lies ahead. The Covid pandemic will continue to create tough trading conditions for KBB businesses. We are still experiencing constantly changing legislation that is open to interpretation. The KBSA worked tirelessly last year to ensure a level playing field for independent retailers. But some organisations have still found loopholes during this latest lockdown and, while the KBSA continues to work with the authorities to protect its members’ interests, retailers have to be flexible and be prepared to change their business models to ensure success.

That said, there are also opportunities to create some positive outcomes. Many retailers have embraced the virtual world much sooner than they would otherwise have done and found that there are benefits to working this way.

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Consumers have had to adapt, too. Working from home has changed their shopping habits and they are wanting to engage 24/7.

In my retail business, we have changed our website, inviting visitors to connect with us for a virtual consultation. We have invested in technology and training to make this a positive experience and found that we are able to share plans and drawings and build confidence and rapport online. We have also made it easy for visitors to download a brochure or browse the site for more information. We realise that while the showroom is still the heart of the business, we are using other tools to keep us visible and connected.

The outlook for 2021 is favourable for those that can be flexible. The housing boom created by the stamp duty holiday will create a strong base for continued growth and pent-up demand in the housing market will create opportunities for the KBB sector.

The future is still uncertain, but the outlook for the home-improvement market is robust. If retailers can remain adaptable and open to new technology, then businesses can grow and flourish.

The positive support of the KBSA will be invaluable for the independent sector as Brexit unravels and we continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19.

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