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Retail news round-up: Campaign to fight cashpoint closures; Sales rise – and prices too

Consumer champion Which? and the Federation of Small Businesses have launched the ‘Freedom to pay. Our way’ campaign after the loss of 2,500 cashpoints in the six months to December 2018 and the closure of 3,000 bank branches across the UK since 2015. With the country’s cash infrastructure diminishing, it is calling for a regulator to be given explicit responsibility for protecting access to cash.

Following December’s disappointing figures, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed a welcome return to growth in January with total sales up 2.2%. But the BRC has cautioned that there is no guarantee this momentum will continue following the end of the sales, where discounts tempted cautious consumers.

Despite significant post-Christmas discounting, shop prices in January were slightly up on last year, according to the BRC and Nielsen. ‘Promotions have become the norm in recent years, but it was never going to be possible to continue making seasonal price cuts deeper each year,’ comments BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson, ‘especially given that the cost of importing many of the goods we buy increased with the post-referendum fall in the pound.’

More than a half of British women (52%) and 32% of men believe men should wear engagement rings to demonstrate their commitment to getting married, a study by heritage jeweller William May reveals.

‘Retail Darwinism’ continues to ‘weed out the weaker’ offers on the high street with northern cities being hit by more store closures than retailers in the south. KIS research also found that 60% of Brits are fearful that the high street will disappear over the next decade.

Two-thirds of small businesses were unaware of the risks of cybercrime or might be aware of it but do not consider it to be a risk to their business, Federation of Small Businesses research shows. ‘Alarmingly 66% of SMEs have been affected by cybercrime,’ it says. The FSB recommends keeping data safe by using strong and random passwords – only 25% of SMEs have a ‘strong’ policy in place – and visiting the National Cyber Security website and Twitter feed to ensure they stay up to date with the latest advice.

Retailers cited technology as the key area in which they are investing, a BRC survey reveals. ‘We’re also hearing that it almost has to have AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the title, to really pique the interest of Boards,’ the BRC adds.

The top five digital trends defining commerce this year will be digital wellness, autonomous outlets, voice, customer-led experiences and the expansion of super apps, according to Euromonitor International.

Alan Monahan