As 2018 draws to a close, many in the industry will be breathing a sigh of relief. For some, it has been an incredibly difficult 12 months.
The Brexit deal vote has been postponed, and Theresa May has survived a vote of no confidence from her own party. As she continues discussions with the European Union, uncertainty looks set to continue into 2019.
Retailers are cautious about the coming weeks and Christmas trading expectations are low. Following another November dominated by discounting, promotions continue across the high street as retailers struggle to shift stock.
We will be sure to see some casualties in January. All eyes will be on Debenhams in the new year as this festive season has been pegged as a “make or break” period for the struggling department store.
It has been a challenging year, but we have also seen some positive highlights. The big events of 2018, such as the World Cup and the royal wedding raised the profile of the occasionwear market, driving sales of waistcoats, yellow dresses and halter-neck styles.
We have seen new players in the market, such as Gymshark and In The Style, make their mark and create new excitement in the industry. Digital players have continued to show growth, and the Boohoo Group in particular has driven phenomenal success across its brands. On the high street, players such as JD Sports, Primark and Zara have bucked the trend and posted positive trading results.
This year, a raft of new store openings and the launch of shopping destinations, such as Coal Drops Yard in London’s King’s Cross created experiences to drive footfall back to the high street.
Retailers are embracing digital, and introducing technologies such as artificial intelligence to change the way they work and increase efficiency across the business. Organisational structures have been streamlined and new roles introduced as multichannel strategies evolve.
Innovation, strong product collections and clear customer focus sit at the heart of the retailers leading the way. As we head into a new year, challenges remain but the strength of this industry, its people and its product will continue to drive success.