One of the great myths of getting older is that next year will be quieter. The last four years have seen retail weather the Beast from the East, the peregrinations of the on-off Brexit deal, and the upheaval of a global pandemic and resulting supply-chain headaches as the global economy emerges from Covid. If any industry deserves a quiet time then surely it is retail.

However, the geopolitical and domestic economic landscapes continue to shift. The conflict in Ukraine over recent months has been truly awful to watch. One side-effect of the conflict and the resulting sanctions on Russia is it has exacerbated some supply-chain challenges and led to a surge in prices for certain commodities. This has helped push up domestic inflation and in turn interest rates, putting a squeeze on household finances. Coupled with a flagging economy, restoring economic growth and tackling the rising cost of living and cost of doing business are very much at the top of the policy debate. Just as important is the need to act on reducing carbon emissions, with our members already two years into a plan to achieve net zero by 2040, as well as supporting the move to a circular economy.

In recent days the constitution has once again come to the fore with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon putting forward a renewed case and unveiling a new route-map towards Scottish independence. If there is to be a further referendum on Scottish independence then there will be an undoubted clamour for clarity over what it all means particularly for the economy, and the existing UK single market, as well as the broader regulatory and tax framework. The Scottish Retail Consortium would seek to work with its members to help them better understand what the implications are for the industry and their business, staff, supply chain, and customers.

So, if the experience of recent years is any guide then retail will continue to face constant change and fresh challenges. What is even more likely is that retailers will respond by focusing on what matters in the communities around them, looking after customers and wider society.

Indeed, one constant is the industry’s brilliant contribution to our local communities and to Scottish society. In a new report on the retail industry’s community activity, Backing Scotland’s Communities Through Covid, the Scottish Retail Consortium has shone a light on the good work being undertaken by retailers, their workforce, and by shoppers.

Fifty-two retailers participated in the survey, ranging across all retail sub-sectors and brands from the likes of Dobbies Garden Centres to Hamilton & Inches, Pets At Home, Sterling Furniture, and Wilkies. The study found a mammoth £16.6 million was raised last year for good causes in Scotland. Admittedly this was down on the amount raised prior to the pandemic – however it is worth recalling that huge swathes of the sector were compelled to close for the first third of last year due to the Government’s Covid restrictions. Indeed, due to this shuttering of shops, the lion’s share of the donations over the year came directly from retailers themselves. Contributions from charity partnerships and customer fundraising made up the rest.

Over and above this, retailers in Scotland donated 900,000 hours towards volunteering or community work last year. In recent months retailers have also stepped up and done their bit to aid the humanitarian effort in Ukraine.

Since the SRC started this research back in 2016 some £92 million has been raised and donated here in Scotland. It’s a phenomenal achievement and the industry and the people who work in it should be rightly proud of their efforts and the difference they are making. It is something all of us can hopefully take a quiet moment to reflect on and be grateful for.

David Lonsdale is director of the Scottish Retail Consortium