Boutique magazine’s December issue is out now

For all the misery covid has inflicted on the world, the seeming hastening of time is probably the most baffling. Somehow, it’s Christmas again. And somehow (not that I’m complaining), we’re about to say goodbye to yet another difficult year.

Yes, 2021 was probably doomed from the start. It kicked off with another national lockdown – and amid the cold weather, it felt bleak, long and dreary. But the UK’s impressive vaccine programme soon gave us some light at the end of the tunnel. And when spring came, we were more than ready to get on with our lives – and many of us did. Retail sales picked up, socialising returned and the outlook was beginning to look positive. Some welcome changes imposed by the pandemic also continued, such as visiting local high streets and supporting small businesses.

But as the end of summer beckoned, cracks were starting to show. Supply chains were at breaking point – and it wasn’t just because of the pandemic. Brexit was causing real problems for fashion brands, retailers and consumers while a haulage driver shortage and fuel crisis followed.

Then came Omicron, a new covid variant that is yet to be fully understood.  In response, the government introduced Plan B measures, making mask-wearing mandatory in some public spaces, expanding the booster programme and advising people to work from home. While early data suggests that footfall has taken a hit, shoppers still appear to be spending, with November sales climbing higher than the same month in pre-pandemic 2019 (turn to page 7 for the full story).

Despite the gloom, there have been many positives – and optimism remains among independent retailers. Many of you boycotted Black Friday this year and instead jumped on the nation’s desire to ‘shop local.’ We saw the launch of alternative annual event Colour Friday, created by Holly Tucker MBE, which can only grow in popularity next year as word spreads among indies and consumers (read more on page 10). Small Business Saturday was also a huge success, with shoppers turning out in droves to support their favourite local retailers.

Many of you have made major strides this year opening more physical stores, hosting sell-out events, increasing overall sales and embracing e-commerce. We’ve loved hearing about all your triumphs and successes during this difficult period. So for this reason, we’ve asked some industry insiders to share their biggest achievements (and hopes for the new year), for our feature starting on page 63. Meanwhile, we’ve tried our best to ensure the rest of this issue is equally inspiring for planning a winning strategy for 2022.

And with that, on behalf of the entire Boutique magazine team, I’d like to wish you a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy new year. Stay safe and we’ll see you in January.

The December 2021 issue of Boutique magazine is out now; read the digital edition here.