Retailers upbeat about 2015 prospects and plan to increase investment, UK

Retailers across the UK are optimistic regarding their prospects for 2015, with the majority expecting greater sales, increased investment and more hiring of new staff.

A British Retail Consortium survey found that 76% of respondents predict higher sales this year versus 2014. Seventy-eight percent expect to expand their workforce while two-thirds plan to increase investment in 2015.

Respondents’ greatest concern was sluggish consumer demand, with 68% of retailers listing this as their number one worry, followed by business rates (53%) and the overall economy (47%).

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said if the UK government was really serious about improving the UK as a place to do business, it should reform business rates.

Helen Dickinson

Ms. Dickinson said retailers are optimistic but still cautious.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said:

“It’s great to see British retailers optimistic about the coming 12 months. After a number of years battling against strong economic headwinds and shaky consumer confidence, it seems as though retailers are set for some cheer in 2015.”

“However, given the tentative nature of the recovery in consumer confidence it’s natural that retailers are cautious about the longevity of the upswing we’ve seen recently. It’s also no surprise that the fundamental reform of business rates has come out as top priority for Government action. It is an outdated and punitive tax.”

“We’re delighted that the Government has decided to back British retailing by committing to review the business rates system and we look forward to working with Government during the course of the review.”

“As the figures from our survey show, the retail industry will be doing its part to drive growth in 2015 – by investing and creating jobs, but these efforts will be hampered if serious solutions to the burden of business rates are not found.”

According to government figures, UK retail sales have been rising at their fastest rate in more than ten years as stores were boosted by the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Panic Saturday, and other milestone shopping days. Black Friday and the two days that followed made for the best retail sales weekend of 2014.

Retail sales surged by 6.4% in November 2014 versus the same month in 2013, the largest annual rise since May 2004.

While analysts are still awaiting more comprehensive data regarding shopping activity over the festive period, fashion chain Next, which does not offer pre-Christmas discounts, reported strong sales late last week.

Over the next couple of weeks we will have a better idea about Christmas trading performance. Some experts wonder whether the aggressive pre-Christmas discounts may have sapped shoppers’ purses so much that little money was left for the festive period.