Spare a little change.

If you don’t like the way the world is at the moment, just give it a minute and I’m sure it will soon all look completely different. It will have changed. Again.We have always lived in uncertain times. The simple fact that, try as we might, we can’t predict the future with any degree of accuracy has made sure of that but this new world of uncertainty seems much more changeable and challenging than any we have lived in before. It is more than simply the fact that it changes at all; who would want a world that never changed? Rather it’s the speed of change, the power of it and the all-encompassing nature of that change.

Life used to be characterised by decades, didn’t it. We used to say, this is what life was like in the 80’s and this is how things were by the 90’s. Now it seems as if we need to track those changes on a yearly basis. This is how the world was in 2021 and how it changed by 2022. Plus, we tend to focus on what is different rather than what has stayed the same and so we can feel our lives are built on shifting sands.

It’s no surprise that anxiety is all the rage.

If we live in a changing world we need to have reliable information as to what those changes actually are and that isn’t always so easy to find.

The digital news media are in the business of selling your attention to advertisers and they grab your attention with an alarming headline about a new crisis that you hadn’t yet started to worry about. Clickbait. It doesn’t have to be exactly true because we are all used to the world changing overnight. There will be something new to worry about tomorrow that will overshadow today’s concerns.

For all of us, and particularly if you are running a business, it’s as important to know not just what is happening, but why it’s happening.

Closing down sale!

In 2022 more shops closed for good than during the pandemic; 50 closures a day on average. They closed on the High Street and in the out-of-town shopping centres. Independents were closing at a faster rate than larger retailers; over eleven thousand of them.

And you can’t lay the blame on the Internet. On-line retail sites had an awful year. Many have gone out of business and many more expect to. Sales are down by up to 50% and profits are down across the board.

The spiralling cost of energy and the broader price increases that are driving the cost of living crisis are robbing people of their ability to spend.

The conflict in Ukraine is pushing up energy costs even though only 12% of our oil and gas come from Russia. Studies have suggested that BREXIT has cost UK households £5.8billion; which is perhaps why nobody talks about it anymore.

The economy may not be in recession yet but the media is wallowing in doom and gloom and recessions are driven more by how people feel than the actual state of their bank account.

To say this year might be challenging is probably an understatement.

Whatever next?

Well, in some ways we have been here before.

“2011 was a difficult year for our industry and, indeed, the whole UK economy. We had relatively high inflation, high unemployment and a shrinking economy. Businesses in the wet leisure sector who had enjoyed reasonable prosperity in 2010 and 2011 were suddenly revising their outlook and considering a difficult future.”
An excerpt from the Wet Leisure Survey results 2011.

Business conditions didn’t start to improve until 2013 but improve it did and the survey showed that our industry looked different after coming out of a recession. We began to see more businesses with staffs of 10 or more rather than the previous picture, which had comprised of a lot of one and two man bands.

Businesses were increasingly working across both the domestic and commercial sector and offering pool, sauna and spa products to their customers.

By 2014 the industry was strong and confident again.

Fortune telling.

The future, they say, belongs to those who learn from the past but the past is so easly forgotten.

It’s easy to see the Wet leisure Survey as something that is just focussed on a single year and paints a picture of the industry that you can set your own business against.

I think it’s even more useful when you look back over the eleven years of the survey and see how our industry has changed. When you see those changes and understand how and why they happened you can make better plans for how you structure and market your business in the conditions we face today.

I find it encouraging to know that we have gone through hard times before and come out stronger and better. It proves how much good change can bring. A new catalogue with new products means new opportunities for us to work together. Meeting new faces at SPATEX often means adding to our list of friends.

A new year means exactly that, a new season where we can make the most of what the world has to offer. After all, changes should be things you make the most of.