The current retailing landscape is looking increasingly difficult, with many retailers looking back over their long and illustrious careers and declaring that things have never looked more challenging.
“The biggest difficulty most people faced was sitting on their laurels,” says Abdul Arain, from Al-Amin Stores in Cambridge.
“You have to constantly look at the changes and trends in the market and move forward. If you sit idly, time catches up with you. But I haven’t seen anything like the challenges we’re facing now in all the 25 years I’ve been in retail.”
Supply chain issues have made getting hold of stock more of a challenge, while price increases – even on staples like milk – have been severe. “I understand that price increases on milk were held off for a long time and a gradual uplift would have been more sensible, but it’s a huge jump,” says Arain. “The cost of business has also gone up in electricity and staff wages. The challenge now is to make the customer feel like they’re getting value for money, which is a subjective thing.”
In fact, for many retailers, the biggest challenge at the moment is simply the number of different challenges landing on their doorsteps. But where there are multiple challenges there are multiple solutions.
Many retailers, like Mike Mitchelson, from Mitchelson’s News in Brampton, Cumbria, are focusing more on the products for which their store is well-known, ensuring their store is a must-shop for customers looking for those products. Others, like Christine Hope, have introduced new points of difference and marketed them properly to attract a wider range of customers.
"I’m really excited when I see retailers try solutions. I think I can do it, then I find it doesn’t suit me,” says Hope. “But I also find that some of the things I do they can’t do either, so the challenge is setting out your stall and focusing on your USP. Algorithm changes and getting your message out on social media without paying are also really important.”