Independent retailers association warns of difficult year ahead

Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre

The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has said it anticipates a challenging period ahead for UK retailers with economic headwinds still expected for 2024.

Bira said it was expecting more challenges for retailers in the coming months and urged businesses to “prioritise resilience and adaptability”.

Bira chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: “While optimism usually accompanies a new year, we anticipate 2024 to be another challenging period given the prevailing pessimism in economic growth.”

Goodacre spoke of the need for economic stability to kick-start recovery. And despite feeling that challenges still lay ahead, he struck a positive note, saying: “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.” 

Consumer confidence remained key, said Goodacre, who went on to say: “Consumers will still lack confidence and will be looking for value and strong brands. We are committed to supporting our members in meeting evolving consumer preferences, ensuring they remain competitive in the market.”

Pointing to what it described as a surprising shift with shoppers going back to bricks-and-mortar retail after the Covid-driven spike in online sales, Goodacre added: “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.”

Goodacre also highlighted the potential for sales to an older demographic of shopper, adding: “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.”

Ending on a less positive note, Goodacre warned of the potentially huge effect of a general election. 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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