The heat is already on for the challenges of 2006


To get a taste of what next year has in store for you, just take a look at some of the stories we are carrying in this week’s issue.

For starters, glance to your right and read the response from the independent sector to the exclusive interview with the OFT’s John Fingleton in our last issue. As you can see, there are some pretty unhappy people out there and it’s clear that the independent sector is not going to make life easy for the OFT. Given this, and the fact that the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group is due to report early in the new year, you don’t need to be a genius, or a journalist, to work out that the debate about the structure of the food retail sector will remain high on everybody’s agenda throughout 2006.

Having digested all of that, you should flip back a few pages to The Grocer 33, where you will see how competition between the major retailers has redefined the pricing landscape in the past six months. Those results back up the scary finding of our pricing index, which last week revealed grocery prices had fallen by 1.4% in the past year - despite huge rises in costs for retailers and suppliers. But don’t expect any lifting of the competitive pressure. As we report in our news pages this week, Asda’s Andy Bond says one of his priorities is opening up a wider price gap with rivals, something they will not be all that keen on letting him do without a fight. So I am betting competition and deflation will be the second massive issue for all of us to deal with next year.

Food and health is the third big theme of 2005 that will carry over into the new year. You can see how it has already affected the industry by turning to our Top Products Survey this week. Here, we chart the problems some brands have been facing as the obesity debate has raged, and spotlight the healthy innovations winning over consumers. But next year, the big brands could have ad bans and traffic light labelling to worry about as well.

Now, I admit, none of this provides much of a reason to be cheerful. But this industry has always thrived best when under pressure, and I am confident that we will be reporting on the positive ways in which you respond to the many challenges you face. And whatever 2006 has in store, you know that you can rely on The Grocer to deliver the news and analysis you need to make sense of it all. See you next year!
Reasons to be cheerful?