Tom Reynolds – Accentuating the positive to eliminate the negative

InsightFeatures Wed 8th Mar 2023 by KBBFocus

Tom Reynolds – Accentuating the positive to eliminate the negative

Tom Reynolds – Accentuating the positive to eliminate the negative

Tom Reynolds, chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, argues that recent announcements show positivity for the UK – and focusing on this will help us weather any storms coming our way.

I began this year with a positive mindset, grateful for some political stability, and encouraged that the bathroom manufacturing sector had a strong year in 2022 despite the numerous challenges it faced. My optimism continues, buoyed by recent announcements consolidating my belief that our sector can manage a volatile marketplace.

Some may think my optimism is unfounded or too assured, but let’s give the upside risk some emphasis for a change.

Firstly, the Bank of England (BoE) forecasts inflation to fall rapidly this year. Wholesale energy prices have fallen, and while we aren’t feeling the effects through our energy bills, it will bring inflation down, regardless of the Prime Minister’s pledge to halve it this year. We should start seeing inflation falling from the middle of this year and ending at around 4%. Even more encouraging is the Bank’s suggestion that inflation will continue to fall back to its desired target of 2% next year.

On energy, the Energy Bills Discount Scheme for non-domestic customers is available from 1st April to 31st March 2024. While it isn’t as generous as the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, it still provides a much-needed discount for businesses struggling with high energy costs. In addition, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has written to OFGEM asking for an update of its review into the non-domestic energy market, seeking clarification on the pricing and availability of tariffs, standing charges and renewal terms in case more support can be provided. The findings could mean more support as part of the Spring Budget.

The UK and EU reaching an agreement through the 'Windsor Framework' is an historic moment. Finally, we should see goods flowing freely to Northern Ireland from Great Britain without additional burdens. While the proposed legislation is yet to pass through the House of Commons before coming into force, it’s a sign of positive change. It’s also a long overdue dose of political pragmatism.

The GfK's consumer confidence index has also reached its highest level since April 2022. While confidence isn’t yet back to pre-lockdown levels, this latest data shows that consumers and businesses believe the future looks much brighter. If consumers are essentially feeling more positive, then shouldn’t we all?

Lastly, I want to highlight the research by PWC on store openings and closures in 2022. The latest data shows chain stores are closing at their slowest rate for eight years, proving that our high streets, retail parks and shopping centres are still important. More shops are closing than opening, but the slowdown is encouraging to see and means consumers are still out there spending their cash.

I’m not blindly saying that we won’t encounter challenges – we will, I’m sure. I am calling for us to dig past the often negative headlines, find the positives, and believe we can weather the storm. If the KBB industry can take advantage of flexible strategies and sound management, we’ll reap the rewards of a recovering economy.

Tags: insight, features, tom reynolds, bathroom manufacturers association, bma

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