On what is traditionally one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, the high streets are eerily quiet. At least until December.
But what will this pre-festive lockdown mean in the long-term for retailers and the hospitality industry across the region? Here, business expert and University of Sunderland’s Professor Lawrence Bellamy gives his view.
“It is a scenario which many businesses who benefit most from the festive season feared most.
“Some retail outlets may stand or fall on the basis of their takings at this time of year. Hospitality similarly enjoys the benefits of seasonal cheer with the parties and social gatherings ramping up towards the break.
“So it’s a significant concern that this lockdown is hitting during the important festive trading period.
“One hope is for a smooth transition once the lockdown finishes, with ‘non-essential’ retail opening up again on the high streets and loyal customers who are not tempted ‘to just do it all online this year’ holding out for the big Christmas spend with them.
“However, it’s inevitable that online will attract a further share of the market, with customers wishing to get their purchases out of the way and unsure about whether their region will still be under significant measures when the national restrictions lift in December.
“For workers and employers alike then the furlough extension is a welcome move. However, there are various sources of funds and numerous boxes to tick to receive the support available.
“It’s a big help, but not suitable for all people or for all of the time.
“Significantly it also signifies how far away a solution is for this pandemic with the March deadline. The start to 2021 is likely to be just as difficult as the end of 2020.
“Shopping habits have changed forever, with a shift to online sticking. Many have tried and liked it.
“The shed with bar has become an urban phenomenon. The pandemic has changed the landscape of retail forever and café culture in the meantime has been put on hold.
“So what will the New Year bring?
“Most likely further retail closures, the continued rise of the online giants, pubs, clubs and restaurants with closed doors and a tough economic outlook.
“However, once this is under control, which it will be at some point in the future, particularly with news of a vaccine en-route, the outlets which have weathered the storm, learnt the lessons of customer loyalty, agility and digital and really built their resilience will reap the benefits of economic upturn with a field of fewer competitors.
“If you can hang in there it will probably get better.”
Professor Lawrence Bellamy is the Academic Dean, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism, at the University of Sunderland.
His research interests lie in the area of Strategy, Enterprise, Small Business, International Management and work-based learning. He has taught and been involved with partnership development in countries including Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Norway, Singapore, Finland, Turkey, Malta, Brunei and various parts of Europe.