Western Morning News

Business in the West will bounce back from this coronaviru­s crisis


AS Britain appears, with everything crossed, to be turning the corner in the coronaviru­s crisis thoughts, inevitably, are turning to how business and industry bounce back, over time, from what now looks certain to be a deep and damaging recession.

When the outbreak first forced a national lockdown the hope was that enforced inactivity for a few weeks would create pent-up demand for everything people had been denied during quarantine. That must remain the hope. But as the period of isolation has – quite properly – been extended and may well have to be extended again, the financial implicatio­ns are going to be all the more damaging.

That is going to mean that some businesses, including giants of the holiday, travel and retail world, may simply not survive. Already a number of companies, from smallest to largest, have effectivel­y gone to the wall. More will undoubtedl­y follow.

The reason for Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s apparently recklessly generous package of support, allowing companies to furlough employees at taxpayers expense, with bail-out grants and loans available to tide businesses over, was to avoid that happening across the board. He and the government hoped to put vital British businesses into temporary deep-freeze, so they can be thawed out and get back to making money and paying taxes once the crisis is over.

That will, we are certain, still happen in many cases. But as the time spent in lockdown goes on and the economy is effectivel­y put on hold, the risk that even with support many businesses earning no money will simply fold gets ever more likely. And if the company is in administra­tion, the staff laid off and the premises shut down, there’s not going to be a bounce back, however swift and thorough the thaw.

Here in the South West many businesses are putting as positive a spin as possible on the crisis, looking forward to getting back to work, preparing – as best they can – to get ready for when the restrictio­ns are lifted and vowing to offer services and products that are better than ever. The holiday business has the most to offer in this regard and, we know, the majority of tourist operators in our region will pull out all the stops to rebuild, quickly and efficientl­y, a multi-million pound regional operation.

It helps that the spirit in which the vast majority went into lockdown was positive. No one wants to shut up shop just as the holiday season is starting. But, to a man and woman, they understood the importance of doing so. And, even if the period has to be extended again, they know that the economic consequenc­es of wave after wave of hospital admissions and deaths would be worse than a concerted period of lockdown such as we are currently engaged in.

The basic premise of business life – that goods and services have evolved to meet clear customer needs and quality and value will always win in the end – will hold good once this crisis is over, just as it did before it started. Survival now is the key, in readiness for a dramatic upturn in economic fortunes just as soon as the starting gun is fired.

That may be a way off yet. But it will come. And the West will be ready.

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