This is my last column of the year. So what sort of year do we think it’s been? A strange one in many respects and certainly quite unique.

This is my last column of the year. So what sort of year do we think it’s been? A strange one in many respects and certainly quite unique.

On the plus side there was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee followed by the Olympics and Paralympics, when a collective smile seemed to settle over the country.

And then on the downside we didn’t have a summer - an event that not only disturbed the natural order of things, it stopped people buying things too. This autumn at least acted like a proper autumn, but that just led to even more rain and terrible flooding in certain parts of the country.

And it has to be said that the Olympics, great as they were, didn’t help retailers at all. Retailing at the Olympic Park itself was fantastic, clocking up phenomenal sales of souvenirs and gifts and proving that the UK can not only stage a great Games but that it also knows how to “do” retailing.

However, for the rest of the industry, waiting to serve the thousands of visitors, it proved a long, fruitless wait.

The backstory across the year remained the economy, and 2012 is ending with the Chancellor’s forecasts ringing in everyone’s ears that this is as good as it gets for the foreseeable future. Retailers continue to learn how to cope with that reality.

But the really big factor affecting retail over these last 12 months has to be the pace of change, with the tablet and smartphone revolution. Just this week I looked across a crowded train carriage and noticed that probably one in five people was busily reading/playing and maybe even shopping on iPads.

I’m pretty sure that back in January that percentage was one in 10 or more.

An international retailer with a strong presence in the UK said that he believes that this year UK consumers have overtaken American shoppers in their adoption of these technologies.

Whatever happens this Christmas, one thing that is guaranteed is that there will be plenty of iPads and other tablets waiting under the tree. Have a merry, omnichannel Christmas.

  • Ian McGarrigle, Director, World Retail Congress