If you take all the officially published statistics at face value, it’s as ifthe overall economy is standing still, while we all wait for something to happen, whether that’s elections here and across the pond, Brexit, or the weather.
The inability to plan effectively is a serious concern, and its effects are evident in this prolonged period when suppliers, retailers and consumers are ‘hedging their bets’. Ironically, the very worst thing we can do is allow this ‘paralysis’ to continue.
On a positive note most BHETA members I talk to – and their trading partners – are doing their level best to ‘get on with it’, regardless of the politics. By which I mean nurture relationships, take account of trends and seasonal opportunities and back innovations in product, retail method and routes to market. They are also unafraid of making tough decisions in terms of operations, back office, logistics and recruitment.
The probability is we will not know the full impact of Brexit in terms of its effects on labour, costs, tariffs, legislation and so on for several years, so no-one in the garden industry can afford to wait for things to be clearer, notwithstanding the possible changes ahead. It’s also just conceivable that if we do see a clearer picture in 2020, there may be a positive bounce in consumer confidence, and if that is the case, the industry needs to be ready to take advantage.
Meanwhile, BHETA is busy providing all the information it can to members about possible impacts and mitigating actions that could be considered in the meantime. At the most recent BHETA forum, BHETA business service providers set out some clear assessments of likely legislative implications over the next few years, such as currency fluctuations, changes in recruitment and employment law, packaging waste and the impact of counterfeiting. Several speakers made the point that many of the suggested actions needed to be taken by both suppliers and retailers, regardless of any Brexit outcome.
So, there is plenty to be done. With that in mind, BHETA has also planned a series of supplier/retailer networking events for the first quarter, targeting home, garden and housewares. January sees a networking forum with TK Maxx, and this will be followed by similar opportunities with online home and garden retailers, home furnishings and home improvement retailer, Leekes. There will also be a ‘Meet The Buyer’ event with Fenwick, whose director of buying for furniture, home and food, Kieran McBride, headlined a BHETA forum in November, outlining among other things the store chain’s garden and outdoor lifestyle offer.
So, one thing is clear – if the politicians are holding their collective breath, suppliers and retailers need to remain focussed and active – both in response to the opportunities and threats, but also to the general need for action, not lethargy. We need a ‘business as usual’ attitude and the impetus to get on with it.