This time last year, I was reflecting on another supremely challenging year and desperately hoping for some calmer trading conditions in the year ahead.
And now, I sit and look back on 2023 and for many, it's yet another year that we'll wish to forget. Utilities horror, government indifference, challenging consumer conditions, closures, spiralling inflation… I could go on, but it's depressing me writing it!
And looking ahead there's some more challenges on the horizon, mostly in the form of a massive national living wage hike, imposed by a government that's flailing against the ropes and desperate to cling on to power with no consideration of the damage their selfish actions are inflicting on business or the economy.
But, I'm a glass half full kind of guy (yes, honestly, stop sniggering at the back!) and despite the challenges ahead there will be opportunities.
Yes, there will be some operators who can't go on, and I'm desperately sad for them. They've clung on through some of the most challenging trading conditions the industry has seen in generations, and to make it through all that to fall at the final hurdle is heart breaking.
But for those that can hold fast, conditions will improve. Inflation (allegedly) is falling and with that we hope interest rates will follow. Consumer spending power will increase and the sector will undoubtedly benefit from that increase in discretionary spend as people look to celebrate the reversal in economic outlook.
Meanwhile, we'll have a general election and while there's no predicting the fickleness of the voting public, I'm be gobsmacked if the current bunch of clowns manage to cling on. So we'll have a new bunch of clowns to deal with! But regardless of political stripe and will, a new Government represents opportunities for change, so we'll need to grasp that with both hands.
Now, some of that is tongue in cheek and no-one can predict the future.
But to not look for positives and opportunities feels self defeating and there's only one direction there.
To all intents and purposes, it seems like Christmas for many has proven to be a strong one this year, the first clear and busy Christmas in the last four years.
That's a real and tangible positive and one that I hope we can all try and build on as we step forward into 2024, and who knows, England might win the Euros as well!
I'd like to wish all of you a great trading Christmas, and a good personal one. Whatever happens in 2024, The Morning Advertiser will be with you every step of the way.