The most important economic news of the last few weeks probably came from the USA, where interest rates have last risen slightly from their historically unprecedented low point. There may be a long gap before the UK follow suit but inevitably that day will come; some consumers who have overcommitted themselves will find themselves under financial pressure.
We would expect the pressure on the profitability of rural shops to continue into the New Year. In particular, consumers will continue to use a lot of different shops to source their food. Amazon mmerson is gearing up to take on the major supermarkets with its “Fresh” service, promising same day delivery at least in large urban areas. The mainstream supermarkets are likely to see their online business continue to grow, whilst the discounters will also be hitting them by increasing their market share. Don’t expect price pressures to ease anytime soon in the market!
Many rural businesses will see their staff costs increase as the national living wage comes into force in April. This will particularly hit some community owned shops where wages currently make up a high proportion of total costs. Affected retailers, be they commercial or community, do need to consider their options now. Making changes to staffing takes time to implement.
Unless there is a massive legal upset, tobacco will start going into plain packaging in May 2016. The health lobby now have sugar firmly in their sights and government action to reduce sugar consumption, particularly by children, would seem a certainty.