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In conclusion

This year in retail will inevitably be dominated by the UK’s departure from the EU – and by planning for the arrangements that are to follow the end of the transition period in January 2021, once agreed.

Brexit has now moved from general uncertainty to specific uncertainties. Previously there was some expectation or hope that Brexit would either not happen at all or would happen as a ‘soft’ rather than a ‘hard’ Brexit. Both would have had the effect of little or no change to customs, tariffs and immigration rules. The general uncertainty of that time has now gone, shown to be a phony war. Now the ecommerce and multichannel retail sector is faced by specific uncertainties around labour, skills, imports, exports and the wider supply chain. Each of these represent a specific challenge to retailers as they re-examine the costs and methods of doing business. After 2020, selling abroad will have new meaning.

At this point we’d be delighted to be able to give words of comfort or specific advice on dangers to avoid and opportunities to take. But at the time of writing, all we can say is that the work is to be done, rather than having been done. 

However, there’s one final, and perhaps more upbeat, point to make. That to reiterate our findings from the pages of this report that continue to show retail performance steadily improving across the wide-ranging metrics that RetailX researchers map. As last year, it’s not just the Elite and Leading retailers who show these steady improvements, but the Top500 as a whole. And as last year, it’s clear that businesses are moving away from features that perhaps do not work as well or as profitably for them as they might have expected, while doubling down on those that do. To take just one example: while more are offering next-day delivery, fewer now enable next-day collection. This illustrates a mature, evolving industry that, we would argue, is now very well-placed for whatever comes next.

As the next chapter unfolds, we’ll be continuing our research both in the UK and across the wider European market. And, as always, we’re interested in how we can extend our research and improve the quality of our findings. Get in touch with ideas and potential datasets via or tweet @RetailX.  

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