2022: The year for growth!

By Howard Saycell, CEO, Retra

After the last couple of years, it would be brave to predict what 2022 has in store. While there is no absolute certainty, the promise of something resembling “normality” is there and the UK economy is certainly now in a stronger position.

As it seems the darkest days of the pandemic appear to be behind us, I am genuinely optimistic about 2022 both for the UK in general and our industry. Having said that, we are constantly reminded that there is no room for complacency and there will undoubtedly be some bumps in the road.

We are not immune to global issues – for example energy prices, shipping costs, inflation and tax rises, and closer to home, the availability of semiconductors. Many of these issues and others are out of our control.

So why am I optimistic? Many Retra members report that business is still good, having seen strong growth in 2020 and 2021. It’s a little early to predict 2022 with any certainty, but many of our members and suppliers are confident that once again we will see growth and the independents will have another solid year of trade.

The consumer has started to think more locally since the start of the pandemic, which has benefitted our members. We all know that online sales remain very high, but most independents are now truly multi-channel retailers, so they have benefitted just as much as the ‘big boys’. I believe that independent retailers have re-established themselves as vital parts of their local communities. I don’t think they ever really lost that “local” link, but the value they give to their communities has started to be valued again.

During 2022, Retra celebrates its 80th birthday. I always find it fascinating that during some of the most difficult days of the Second World War, some people got together and thought “this would be a good time to start an electrical retailer’s association”. They were certainly brave to do so at that time and it’s wonderful that the association is still around today and still fighting the corner for the independents.

To celebrate this significant birthday, we will be hosting a special event in the Spring. Our national Retra Conference takes place on Tuesday 5 April 2022 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Coventry, and this is our first Conference for three years due to the obvious restrictions that have been in place. The theme is “The Challenge of Change”. It is a one-day event and will once again be hosted by the popular business journalist, Declan Curry.

The first 125 members to book will receive a free place. Additional places are available at £45 plus VAT. There are more details on the Retra website.

In addition, because it is Retra’s 80th year, we are also hosting another get-together at the same venue the evening before on Monday 4 April. This will be free-of-charge to anyone attending Conference with food and drink provided. We have delved deep into Retra’s archives and will be displaying some of the great memorabilia that has been saved over the years!

Other events making a comeback this year are our Scottish Golf Day, at Crieff Golf Club on 26 May, and our National Golf Day at The Oxfordshire on 22 June.

And finally I must end on a gloomier note. We at Retra have always believed that manufacturers and retailers possess a very different skill set; manufacturers innovate and bring exciting new technologies to the market, while retailers engage with the consumer and explain, demonstrate, sell and install the products.

This combination ensures both a vibrant market and a great experience for the consumer. In recent years, however, we have seen some manufacturers move towards a direct relationship with the consumer. Some have even tried this direct approach, only to revert back to just selling through retailers again.

Retra’s position is quite clear – we believe that for us all to prosper we should stick to what we do best… manufacturers doing their job and retailers doing theirs.