The general election looming, the tobacco display ban imminent and multiples invading the convenience sector – 2015 will be a challenging year for independent retailers.

We asked four associations what they predict and hope for the sector over the next year and what retailers can do to overcome the challenges.

Association of Convenience Stores

Chief executive, James Lowman

James Lowman ACS predictions 2015“The biggest challenge will likely be managing the costs of running a store. With the business rates system in dire need of reform, energy prices on the rise and politicians looking to commit to above inflation rises in the minimum wage, there will be a lot of pressure.”

“Online shopping is a challenge. However, independent retailers have the advantage of being adaptable. The development of services which get online shoppers into stores such as Amazon lockers, has been a real positive for the sector.”

“Retailers should plan ahead. The tobacco display ban is in April and it’s vital that retailers prepare sooner rather than later. Preparedness also means taking advantage of key sales opportunities, such as stocking plenty of strawberries during Wimbledon.”

British Property Federation

Director of policy, Ian Fletcher

Ian Fletcher BPF predictions 2015“The high street debate will continue to rumble on without any real intervention. Retailers will still need to work hard to keep shoppers happy and will have to ensure that their high street offer is competitive and innovative.”

“A review of the business rates system will lead to improvements being made to coincide with the next revaluation, due in 2017.”

“There will be pressure on private rented sector landlords and whatever the colour of Government, in the next election, there will be a Housing Bill, which will contain measures on private renting.”

Scottish Grocers’ Federation

Policy and public affairs manager, John Lee

SGF John Lee predictions 2015“We will see the continued expansion of discounters and the big supermarkets fighting between themselves.”

“Some research says if trends continue, sales in large-out-of-town supermarkets will fall by almost 20% over the next six years. The way the big supermarkets respond to this could have a crucial impact.”

“Competition will be as big an issue as ever. We need to make sure key politicians understand the economic contribution convenience stores make to the economy.”

“Every independent convenience store re-invests hundreds of thousands of pounds in the local economy. It’s good economics to help to ensure a sustainable and profitable independent industry.”

Tobacco Manufacturer Association

Communications Manager, Paul Stockall

prediction 2015“2015 will be another challenging year. The tobacco display ban will take effect in smaller stores from April and the debate around plain packaging is still rumbling and retailers have been rightly airing their concerns.

“Hopefully the Government will look at the evidence from Australia, the only country to have introduced plain packaging, which shows clearly that the policy is not achieving its objectives, but the illegal market is thriving.”

“With the threat of further tobacco tax increases, tackling the illegal market in the UK remains an ongoing challenge. HMRC are publishing their refreshed Tackling Tobacco Smuggling Strategy in the spring and we look forward to working with them as part of our ongoing commitment to address illegal trade, which impacts so heavily on the retail sector.”