Each year, Furniture News asks some of the UK’s top retailers to share their views on some of the most significant industry developments, and how these might impact their future. In an excerpt from our annual Year in Review special (which features in the January issue of Furniture News), we ask which emerging trend is set to have the biggest effect on independent furniture retail in 2019 (and beyond) …

Gavin Boden (furniture sales and marketing professional): We will heave a big sigh of relief when Brexit is finalised, and hopefully see a rise in furniture sales.

Mike Murray (Land of Beds): It’s going to be a hybrid between online and AI. We’re already integrating AI algorithms into our business – making the current processes more streamlined and efficient. As well as improving our bottom line, this will make for a more personalised and effective shopping experience.

Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds): Brexit will come and go, an unnecessary distraction, and may cause some short-term issues depending on the outcome of negotiations over the next 12 months.

For our industry I believe the future will connect our products of support and comfort to technology, including temperature control, lighting, sound, information and data, all linking together to provide full sleep experience.

Ross Beveridge (Archers Sleepcentre): It is hard to say at this point what the exact impact will be from Brexit, but cost pressures have already begun filtering through over the last 18 months, with an increase in raw materials and the weakening of the pound appearing to be the main source. I would not expect there to be a reduction in demand, but uncertainty does slow trade. Hopefully, when clarity arrives, consumer confidence will follow.

E-tailing continues to provide its challenges, with PPC strategy and management absorbing vast amounts time and money.

I do feel omnichannel shopping is a strength not to be overlooked in the furniture industry, and websites supported via bricks-and-mortar retail should stand the test of time. Our customers can order and even return products from our online proposition in-store, and all short-term promotional items and even finance offers are replicated in-store and online, no more online or in-store exclusives. Customers should not be penalised for their preferred methods of shopping, nor should choice be limited or hindered.

Steve Adams (MattressOnline.co.uk): Undoubtedly, the change in consumer shopping behaviour – we will have a very different retail landscape in 10 years. Footfall will continue to decrease, and technology will help our customers find and buy the perfect bed online.

Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture): In the short term, Brexit is certain to have an impact, though what that is and how big it will be remains to be seen.

Alongside that though, the rise of online sales will continue to challenge all of us in the mainstream bricks-and-mortar businesses, no matter how well we translate our store offer to an online digital one. The need for reform of the business rates system – to one that is based on turnover instead of property – is essential if we are to see any chance of a high street renaissance.

Read more feedback from our panel in the January issue of Furniture News.