• Ask the panel: 2018 outlook - What will be the biggest challenges facing businesses in 2018?

Ask the panel: What will be the biggest business challenges in 2018?

Ask the panel: What will be the biggest business challenges in 2018?

Political instability and the ongoing effects of Brexit negotiations impacting most industries brought some tough times for the business world last year. Will 2018 be brighter? We asked our experts:

Q: What will be the biggest challenges facing businesses in 2018?

Candice Fonseca
proprietor, Delifonseca

The retail sector is facing more challenges than ever as we head into 2018 and in the last 12 months alone, business owners and consumers alike have felt the power of the digital revolution.

The sector has seen many customers shifting towards an online shopping experience which is often quick and simple and with some retailers offering same day delivery, it is easy to see the appeal. However, we’ve seen first-hand the effect that this can have on traditional retailers with retail employment falling by over 60,000 last year.

Customers are becoming wise to age-old retail marketing and so it’s important for retailers to focus on customer experience and high quality goods that speak for themselves.

Change management can be a challenge in itself for any retail manager and so it’s important to identify possible risks and challenges and allow plenty of time to adapt whilst keeping up to speed with the latest industry trends.

“The challenge for businesses will be keeping up with the digital revolution.”

Peter Taaffe
managing partner, BWM

The challenge for businesses will be keeping up with the digital revolution. Business is being transformed by digital technology in so many ways and we are reaching a point where the distinction between a digital and non-digital business will disappear.

Although it has faced a number of delays, the government’s Making Tax Digital initiative will represent a revolution in business taxation. It means every business and sole trader in the UK will be required to file digital tax returns every quarter.

The government has said that some three million ofthe smallest enterprises, as well as landlords, will be able to move onto digital tax filing “at a pace thatis right for them” – but there is no room for complacency. We recommend every business starts preparing right now.

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Jonathan Sealey
chief executive officer, Hope Capital 

The looming spectre on the horizon for everybody is Brexit but this won’t materially change anything this year – the challenge will lie in how people and businesses react to the various bits of news being released.

The biggest danger is that confidence is weakened and then businesses seem to sit tight protecting what they have got rather than investing for the future.

The concern is that if the things being worried about never materialise, businesses and the UK economy have lost two years unnecessarily when they could have been growing and expanding. If talk of Brexit can be put to one side the economy is actually in pretty good shape.

The more immediate challenge for landlords and property investors is the 3% additional Stamp Duty and all the different changes both to tax rules and the rules governing how investors with four or more properties now get finance. The positive is that there is still finance to be had for property development and much of it is at record low prices.

For house builders and developers, the government’s investigation into ‘land banking’, where a company buys land and then doesn’t develop it, may prove to be a positive thing ifit releases more land or means that more homes are built on it.

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Emma Carey
partner, MSB Solicitors

Further investment into our knowledge sector will be vital in terms of capturing talent. The mass of young, dynamic people coming into the city to work and live will further advance Liverpool’s growing core of digital businesses and could help position Liverpool as a regional hub for digital and technology.

Of course, hosting the International Business Festival will once again shine a spotlight onto important investment opportunities here. Liverpool needs that outside investment if it is to continue to grow at any pace – the business community must pull together to ensure that we demonstrate the city’s unique qualities and the breadth of reasons to invest here.

On a micro level, I can see that business of all sizes will have to pay heed to the advancing harassment agenda and strive to ensure that their own workplaces are entirely inclusive, and that the ‘Benny Hill’ theme tune of the seventies is fully drowned out.