A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT? What’s next, ask companies on the front line
Andrew Hinds, director, family-owned jeweller F. Hinds We closed in March and furloughed almost 99pc of our staff, not far off 980 people. We reopened as soon as we could, with many stores on shorter hours. Since then it’s been better than we feared, but I think that is largely down to pent up demand – watch batteries and engagement rings. Footfall has been down, but fortunately the average sale has been well up. However, local lockdowns would make a dent and if things go the wrong way again, we would be back to where we were in March with a wider lockdown. What the Government did the first time round to support the economy was welcome and vital, but would they be able to do that second time round?
James Robson, chairman, Fallow restaurant
We pivoted to takeaway but now we are back to trading as a restaurant – with a “lockdown burger” on our menu. But there is an impending crisis. At the moment we have incredibly supportive landlords, with the Crown Estate leading the way. But at some point if the high street doesn’t do a certain amount of turnover then even percentage rents don’t work. Eat Out to Help Out has given an amazing boost, but it’s a bit like life support when the bigger problem isn’t solved.
You can stare down Piccadilly and see two people.
Neil Smith, finance director of EE Smith, an interior fit-out and joinery company
Our work is mainly in London fitting out luxury hotels and residential developments. It was going great guns before the lockdown; we were employing 300 staff and 375 agency contractors. It almost entirely stopped with the lockdown. We’re recovering though not yet up to precoronavirus levels. Having agency staff means we can flex, and we’re using about 150 at the moment. There’s been no let up in requests to tender.
I think as long as the UK remains an attractive place for the wealthy, we’ll continue to have plenty of work.
Peter Wells, managing director, Wells & Co, pub owner
It was pretty grim to begin with – suddenly going from a 146-yearold successful family business to absolutely nothing. But we made the most of the time to think about innovation, such as ordering apps. We also spent a lot of time worrying about how to keep people safe, but in as normal an environment as possible. About all of our estate is now open, barring about five pubs that are so small we feel uncomfortable about opening. Generally speaking, trade now is good. And the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been great.
Amy Golding, chief executive, Opus Talent Solutions, recruitment and training agency “Things have been pretty resilient in the sectors where we specialise and some companies, such as cyber security, have accelerated. Companies have been reasonably comfortable on-boarding new staff remotely. The training side of the business has also provided a bit of a lifeline to people in lockdown. When the jobs market comes back, a lot of the jobs will be in sectors such as technology and renewable energy, and we have seen a rise in applications in people who want to re-train in tech. There is a certain amount of immediate social welfare that will be needed as people will be losing their homes and jobs, but the government intervention also has to be about re-training. There are jobs out there, in the digital and tech space, and that space will recover quickest. Even before this, there was a huge skills shortage. Just in the UK alone in 2019 we were short about 600,000 people with digital and tech skills. Rachel Millard and Alan Tovey