What lies ahead in 2019?

Few local retailers would disagree that 2018 has been yet another tumultuous year for the industry with massive consolidation, legislative upheaval, economic uncertainty and shifting consumer patterns – so is 2019 set to bring more of the same?

As every year passes and every new year approaches, the one thing that seems to be a constant in the local retailing industry is massive upheaval. There’s little doubt that 2018 saw change on an epic scale once more with seismic shifts right across every aspect of the trade from yet more legislative challenges and constant economic uncertainty to huge consolidation and rapidly shifting consumption patterns. And that’s not to mention the many retail businesses that met their end over the last 12 months.

So what lies ahead for the coming 12 months? Is it set to be more of the same? And where will the challenges – and opportunities – come from? SLR spoke to suppliers, industry bodies and retailers to find out what they think 2019 will bring and you can hear their thoughts over the next dozen pages…

Kate Salmon, Executive Director, Scottish Wholesale Association

2018 has certainly been an interesting year for the wholesale and wider retail sectors, with legislation and numerous government consultations taking up much of our time and focus in Scotland. Last December, I said I couldn’t remember the last time our industry moved into a new year without some sort of legislation looming and 2019 is shaping up to be no exception.

We are having input to the Scottish Government’s consultation on restricting the in-store marketing and promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt. In addition, we have met with Food Standards Scotland to discuss its consultation on the Scottish Government’s Out of Home strategy, which targets “promotions and marketing” for out-of-home sectors – including restaurants, takeaways, sandwich shops, bakeries and coffee shops.

Although the official consultation on DRS has closed, Zero Waste Scotland is continuing to work with us and others in developing the final scheme design. It is imperative that we ensure Scotland’s scheme is the right one for our members’ customers. Our Chief Executive (Designate) Colin Smith travelled to Sweden to look at schemes there and has been able to use his experience to contribute to the debate.

Regarding minimum unit pricing we look forward to hearing from the Scottish Government on clarification and confirmation of the point that MUP does not apply to sales to trade. SWA is very much in favour of this and it confirms our view in previous submissions.

It is our aim to work with other trade associations and stakeholders on several issues in 2019 as we strive for the best outcomes for our members across many areas of business. A collaborative approach provides us with the best chance to make our concerns heard loud and clear – and that strategy will serve us well in what looks like being another very busy year for our industry.

John Lee, Head of Policy & Public Affairs, SGF

A key issue for the industry in 2019 will be encouraging more women to become retailers or to look for senior positions across the wider retail supply chain. This issue was brought forcefully to life at our most recent cross-party group on independent convenience stores in the Scottish Parliament. Our final meeting of this year looked at Women in Retail. We know from our Scottish Local Shop Report that 75% of staff in the sector are female. However, as we all know, the stats often hide both the true picture and some underlying complexities. At the meeting we heard from several women store-owners (all award-winning retailers in their own right) about their experiences and how they have become not just successful retailers but successful business people.

There were real positives but there we heard about the negatives too, particularly around struggles with work-life balance, the difficulty in devoting time to the business when you have caring responsibilities and the near impossibility of taking full maternity leave when you are running your own business.

To help to address this SGF will begin to look at a mentoring programme for women in retail in 2019 which will hopefully become part of a wider discussion about how genuinely diverse and inclusive our industry is.

Toby Pickard, Head of Insight, Innovation and Futures at IGD

The biggest trend of all in 2019 is likely to be the continuation of rapid and radical change in the food and grocery industry. We have already seen a significant pivot towards innovative new technology, and there is no sign of this letting up next year. Shoppers’ expectations have changed, and the retail and grocery sectors are working to meet those expectations in every area of business.

We predict five specific trends will dominate in 2019:

Data, and particularly customer data, will offer more personalised shopping

  • Sustainability concerns will change the way retailers do business
  • Stores will offer more seamless shopping experiences
  • Healthy eating and wellness will grow in popularity
  • Shopping opportunities will increasingly be available anywhere, anytime

Mark Pawsey MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping that I chair has called on the UK Parliament to lead the way and act as example to other workplaces and public places by becoming vape friendly in 2019. Current arrangements do not adequately cater for the needs of vapers, with designated vaping areas being outside and unknown to most members of staff.

Our ‘Vaping in workplaces and public places’ report is based on increasing evidence that vaping is a key process to smoking cessation, with Public Health England saying that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and vaping having already helped three million smokers to quit or reduce their habit.

However, messaging around vaping is still very confused, with some employers banning vaping in workplaces or even during working hours. Most recently, Dundee Council bosses threatened employees with disciplinary action if they vaped at all during working hours.

Our key recommendations included encouraging employers to have a specific workplace vaping policy that balances the needs of current vapers or smokers looking to switch to vaping with those of non-vapers. We also believe that public places should have specific vaping policies that are separate to smoking regulations.

Employers have an opportunity to help the UK government achieve its ambitious target to reduce smoking to less than 12% by 2022. For this to happen, it is imperative that we encourage employees trying to quit through vaping, by offering flexible workplace vaping policies.

Kathryn Neil, Director, SGF Healthy Living Programme

There’s no question that 2018 was a year of change for the SGF Healthy Living Programme and that meant a lot of work in the background, but our sights are now firmly fixed on 2019 and there’s a lot to look forward to. We will be unveiling new activities and initiatives next year as we continue our drive to help and encourage local retailers to make sure they are offering their customers healthier options in-store.

We will also be rolling out an entirely new look for the Programme in early 2019 including new POS, stands and imagery. We believe the new look will retailers grow sales and footfall.

We will also be engaging more actively than ever with suppliers and retailers to capitalise on the increasing interest in healthier lifestyles and diets among Scottish consumers. I would encourage retailers to join us on that journey.