Pictures of the shutters coming down on Comet stores for the final time this week are a fitting, but unfortunate, image with which to close out 2012.

Pictures of the shutters coming down on Comet stores for the final time this week are a fitting, but unfortunate, image with which to close out 2012.

Fitting because in a year when the brutal economic winds continued to blow so hard, shop closures and job losses have often dominated the news; unfortunate because these sad events fail to tell the whole retail story or speak for any of the year’s many successes.

In some ways Comet’s downfall has represented the challenges faced by British retail throughout the year: caught as it was between the explosion of the digital space and austere purchasing behaviour that’s been driven by the recession.

But the company had far deeper structural issues to contend with too, preventing it from navigating the changing circumstances many others in the retail sector have adapted to, and in some cases thrived in.

The response to the challenges presented over the past 12 months has seen the best retailers come to the fore, driven by a level of innovation that still marks British retailing out as the best in the world. There has been the undoubted acceleration of efforts to deliver on the opportunities presented by digital retailing, such as M&S’s groundbreaking Cheshire Oaks store, with its multichannel innovation, and the rise and rise of Asos.

Retailers have also shown themselves determined to seize opportunity and not be the victim of circumstance, whether that be abroad as Sir Philip Green prepares to conquer America, or at home where Tesco boss Philip Clarke has put energy and cash into returning Tesco to the top of its game.

In the past 12 months the most successful UK retailers have created a leaner, more innovative and flexible future for themselves and the sector.

That approach will prove invaluable as 2013 dawns. Statistics for Christmas this year are beginning to ignite hope 2012 will still end on a relative high. Saturday, December 22, is expected to be the busiest shopping day in UK retail’s history, drawing out 13 million shoppers, compared with 11 million on the Saturday before Christmas last year.

But, after Christmas, attention will soon return to the outlook for the new year.

Our prediction is for growth, albeit only just, as conditions are likely to mirror those of 2012. But the best retailers have already proved they are up to the challenge.

From everyone at Retail Week, many thanks for your support in 2012. Have a merry and prosperous Christmas and all the best for 2013.