5 pledges you should make for 2017

Inspiration and Direction for Retailers – by Cliff Moss, MD of Healthy Sales Group

There’s no doubt 2016 has been one of those years to make us sit up and take note.

From a political perspective, it has been somewhat tumultuous, both in the UK and overseas. Yet the UK retail sector, and the retail sales index in particular, has been more resistant to the immediate and catastrophic impact that economists warned of prior to June’s referendum.

Planning for 2017 continues apace, and we are approaching the New Year with a watchfully optimistic outlook. In our view, the next 12 months may present challenges, but also great opportunity, and we are looking to move forward with a number of pledges for the next year in the industry:

1. Be bullish about your trading outlook during challenging times.
Evidence suggests that companies that invest are the ones who succeed during market upheaval. During the 2008 financial crisis, companies were forced to adjust to a radically different business climate. Some businesses that resisted the corporate reflex to contract managed to defy convention by creating an alternative roadmap for growth. Invest, diversify and keep your offering customercentric – offer a product range or consumer experience that is second to none, and you could set yourself apart from your competition.

2. Don’t be afraid of price increases.
Global currencies are inextricably linked, so a dip in the value of one currency will inevitably lead to price rises alongside changes in import/ export costs. While larger conglomerates have a degree of price elasticity, niche brands and businesses will be more susceptible to an increasing cost base, but conversely, may be better equipped to weather the demand storm because they offer the consumer a unique product or service. With this in mind, a competitive niche offering is likely to maintain sales volume even in the face of a modest and justifiable price increase.

3. Never lose sight of your overhead costs.
The old adage that ‘turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is reality’ is just as relevant during periods of global change. The Office for National Statistics estimates that the vast majority of business failures are due to bad cash flow management. Know your numbers, understand the intrinsic workings of your sales cycle, appreciate your tax liabilities and keep in touch with your bank, particularly if your business is seasonal.

4. Encourage your staff to be a part of your winning team.
A workforce with a positive outlook and collective vision will help you to move forward as a business. With changes on the horizon, you may be tempted to be fiscally cautious, but ensuring that you nurture the talent within your team through clarity of communication, training and appropriate reward will pay dividends in terms of staff loyalty and a constructive team dynamic.

5. Be fleet of foot.
Continuing the same – albeit planned – trajectory as the market around you shifts and adapts could hold you back. Do not be afraid to amend your strategy in the face of changing market conditions. After all, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, ‘Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’.

Finally, work hard to ensure that you do not become a Uriah Heep – a character notable for his cloying humility, sycophancy and insincerity, and a by-word for a falsely ‘umble’ hypocrite. In other words, stick to your values and beliefs but move with the times.

A business that masters its commercial operation and delivers an offering that really matters to the consumer has the opportunity to not only remain competitive, but also win market share in the journey towards economic recovery and success.

Cliff Moss is the Group Managing Director of Healthy Sales Group, which manufactures and distributes FMCG lines under Healthy Food Brands Ltd: www.healthysales.co.uk and www.healthyfoodbrands.co.uk.

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