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  • Chris Mellor-Dolman

'New Normal' Reality

It’s been a mixed week. Whilst it was encouraging to see non-essential retail up and running again on Monday, figures published on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the number of employees on UK payrolls fell by over 600,000 compared with March.

The return to prosperity for UK businesses and citizens is set to be a long climb.

cautious and different

The ‘new normal’ is on everybody’s lips right now, but what does that actually look like at this point in time for UK businesses, especially SME’s, as they resume their operations?

Take Paul Woodhouse, a high street dentist from Stockton-on-Tees. Prior to Lockdown his practice was treating 600 patients a week through his six surgery set-up. Last week, on their first week back and limited to two surgeries, they saw just 26 patients. Paul is lucky in that about three-quarters of his work is NHS, so he gets support. However, the private part of his business has all but disappeared.

The knock-on effect of Covid-19 restrictions is that patients seeking routine appointments are being turned away into the New Year, and it has to be this way for the foreseeable future for their safety and protection. In the meantime, many patients are suffering.

“As a dentist I feel impotent… For me, pulling teeth is a failure. I work in repairs, not demolition, but that’s where dentistry has been left in 2020”.

no immunity

Seemingly, there’s almost nowhere to hide in this pandemic. Many sectors are set to struggle, at least initially, as they have to find new ways of doing business in order to survive and prosper. Take luxury food & drink, which historically has remained relatively immune to economic downturns. In the absence of demand from the high-end restaurant trade as their doors remain closed, the finer things in life from those trading in everything from caviar to Champagne could be amongst the hardest hit.

Luxury food & drink business owners have rallied by going direct to high-spending consumers online, but as demand falls and prices tumble their output has had to be scythed. Hauntingly, it has echoes of wartime rationing.

social life, but not as we knew it

The most welcome news for many is that pubs, bars and restaurants in England could be set to reopen from 4 July. Landlords and their teams will be doing everything they can to ensure our safe return: pre-booked spaced tables, a one in - one out toilet policy, payment via apps, and single use menus.

The overriding hope is that the pandemic is over soonest, so that such safety measures are only with us for the short-term. The discussion continues on reducing social distancing from two metres to one, with many owners arguing that this is themost vital step in making their businesses viable for reopening.

our support matters most

Whatever your take is on relaunching the economy, one thing is for sure. Now more than ever, we need to rally and support both our local and national business. There will be hiccups in process, and service expectations may be an early casualty, but we need to remain patient and to be understanding of those who’re trying to do their best in the most challenging of circumstances in generations. Let’s collectively agree to have faith and put our money back into the worthy businesses that deserve our spend.

One more thing… let’s make sure we do it safely, following the guidelines that each business has worked tirelessly to get into place for our protection. Perhaps then, just maybe, we’ll get closer to the ‘old normal’ that we enjoyed but took for granted pre-Lockdown.

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