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    Difficult year ahead for retailers, Bira warns

    Shopers look into a shop window in Tunstall high street on October 31, 2023 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has said 2024 is anticipated to be a challenging period for shopkeepers as economic challengers are still set to bite.

    Bira, which works with over 6,000 independent businesses of all sizes across the UK, said they were expecting more challenges coming up in the coming months – and urged businesses to prioritise resilience and adaptability.

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

    “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.”

    Difficult year ahead for retailers, Bira warns
    Andrew Goodacre

    Goodacre added that consumer confidence also remained key. “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,” he said.

    Contrary to the digital trend, Goodacre said they 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,” Goodacre said.

    Looking locally, he said there were many opportunities in community collaboration. “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,” he added.

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

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