Christmas is such a big time of year for the retail sector that it tends to absorb all our focus. Then we wake up on January 1st, realise it’s a new year and wonder what new challenges are about to land on our desks. So, in readiness for that new year reflection I thought it was worth highlighting some of the trends emerging from the consumer perspective. These might just give you some pause for thought and a different perspective to the start of your new year. First up is thoughtful shoppers. Today’s shoppers aren’t just savvy, they are more thoughtful than the shoppers of 10 years ago. Having lived through the recession, and now facing the impact of Brexit, these shoppers have learned the value of their spending. They know that they can have an impact on businesses through the choices they make, and they are increasingly willing to make choices based on more than price. They want to know the money they spend goes to businesses they trust, they want to know that businesses will do what they say, and if they don’t feel these businesses are trustworthy they will look elsewhere. This has implications not just on the principles that businesses need to work by, it is also putting increasing pressure on businesses to be more transparent. This could be quite literally using packaging that properly shows off food products, or it could be about the way provenance is communicated, or the way a business treats its suppliers and staff. The second consideration is retail experiences. Digital is having a huge impact on retail. For bricks and mortar stores, digital could be a god-send, not just the biggest challenge ever faced. In a world when consumers can shop 24/7, they are recognising that there are still plenty of times when shopping in a store is the best solution to their needs. But to make that commitment to get off the sofa and into the store, they need to believe the trip is worth it. Retailers need to be using digital to their advantage, supporting the experience in-store from a service and an experiential level. Whether it’s being able to check stock in advance, getting the right size/colour delivered to home at the click of a salesperson’s button, being served by staff who really do know what they are talking about, seeing a brand come to life or being able to experience the new game / pc before buying Digital can deliver the solutions that make bricks & mortar stores better. My final trend consideration is reconstructed ready meals. As life gets busier, consumers continue to look for those time saving solutions that make things easier. In the noughties the ready meal category made a huge difference to busy people, and as a result went from strength to strength, before hitting something of a growth buffer once quality and health standards were brought into question. A more modern version is now emerging through delivery boxes. The likes of Hello Fresh are considered a strong enough proposition to have gained distribution through the grocery multiple retailers, and the ‘ready to cook’ sections of those stores grow at the expense of traditional ready meals. I’d also include the emergence of fresh and exciting food to go options under the banner of ready meals reconstructed. Let’s face it, lunch is a meal so sandwiches and pasties are arguably the original ready meals. The emergence of innovative food-to-go brands and experiences is having a real impact on consumer’s out-of-home habits/ expectations. Here’s seeing every challenge as an opportunity in 2018!