Last weekend saw the Annual Conference and meeting of the Scottish Grocers Federation. The seminar on the Saturday saw a range of presentations including my opening one on the state of Scottish retailing.
It is currently hard to be positive about the state of the retail sector and the likelihood of strong consumer spending. Scotland from 2003-2009 did really well in retail sales with strong performances, but since then has seen weaker sales. In a week when several retailers (Oddbins, Alworths amongst others) have gone into administration and profit warnings from the likes of Dixons and JJB, it was hard to be upbeat. Maybe I overdid the doom and gloom but there are going to be more casualties in the year to come, both from retail firms and from locations where decline is accelerating.
So who can win in the coming year? Retailers with a sharp eye on costs and consumers, as ever, will be the likely successes. For small shops and convenience retailers, their embeddeness in the local area will be fundamental. The good news is, that as we know from awards by the likes of the Scottish Grocer, there are some amazingly good local and small shop retailers across Scotland. The good ones can hold their heads up with the best anywhere. The issue is raising the bar everywhere.
The other thing that struck me from the Conference was the great professionalism in the Scottish Grocers Federation and a confidence in the abilities of many of their members. They are a lobbying force of some power and influence and they need to be – the voice of the small convenience store needs to be heard for the good of Scotland. Retailers such as David Sands, Scotmid and many others represent great local stores and they are much needed to provide local services for consumers and outlets for produce.