A SUIT­ABLE CASE FOR TREAT­MENT? What’s next, ask com­pa­nies on the front line

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Coronaviru­s: Focus On The Economy -

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

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