Spring Budget no cause to relax, retailers need more support

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Jeremy Hunt said the UK will not enter a recession this year in the Spring Budget. Whilst this will come as welcome news for many struggling retailers, Paul Lynch, head of UK Experience & Commerce UK&I, Merkle, says that more specific and targeted strategies from the government are needed if businesses are to keep their lights on.

Bringing excitement back to highstreets

 “We need to engage businesses to invest back into our highstreets to drive footfall and improve the economy. But we need a way to revolutionise the highstreets’ offering; retail how we know it is on a downward spiral. We need assistance from the government to support the digital revolution within our shops and towns.

“But the onus isn’t all on the government. Retailers need to improve their offerings to shoppers to entice them back. For example, coffee shops or bakeries could be the initial reason customers visit a store. But there, they can shop while they eat, whether that’s electronically or through physical showrooms. Similarly, a menswear store could partner with a barber shop to offer haircuts; but the store also is a showroom for the men’s brand. Here, we need to start thinking collaboratively to provide an unusual and unique offering to shoppers.”

Engaging a younger workforce

“There has been a spike in economic inactivity post-pandemic; to encourage the younger workforce back, the government must introduce ways of engaging them through digital roles and enable UK employers to recruit locally. The support with childcare costs came as a welcome announcement in the Spring budget, but similar more specific strategies will be required for introducing and keeping digital talent, especially as desired skill sets are continuing to evolve in our digital world. Tax credits for digital skills would be a welcome change to ensure businesses and industries are at the forefront of a changing society by becoming more digital.

“Businesses also need to remain competitive with new talent. The employment market is improving for employers, but staff have higher expectations than ever – it’s not as easy as increasing wages. To attract and retain talent, businesses have to offer more in terms of benefits packages and perks.”