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New restrictions coming? University expert on why only the flexible will survive

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Published on 13 October 2020

New restrictions?
New restrictions?

With new restrictions now in place across some parts of the country and uncertainty in others, a University of Sunderland expert has examined the impact on hospitality, businesses and jobs.

In a period where many businesses would be traditionally moving their focus towards Christmas, the uncertainty over the future is crippling an already massively destabilised sector.

So which businesses are likely to keep their heads above water? And what does the future hold when “patterns of consumer behaviour” have been all but obliterated by the virus?  

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism, said: “It’s a very tough time for hospitality, leisure and retail when it should be the start of busy period running up to Christmas. However, the changing nature of control responses to Covid 19 are impacting once again.

“Whilst many organisations have changed to ‘Covid Safe’ working approaches, further limitations, particularly for hospitality, are risking closures at a point when business should be traditionally strong.

“Even the 10pm curfew was a substantial impact for restaurants, one sitting not two for example on top of reduced covers due to social distancing. This is a contrast to Help Out to Eat Out, which was a very successful initiative for many.

“For those organisations who have lost substantial revenue over the preceding months the loss of further operations could be the final straw.

“Whilst the government has committed to further support, this cannot mitigate all eventualities and we know that some businesses; your lunchtime coffee shop, Sunday pub lunch, Friday night cinema and restaurant trip, all rely on footfall being driven by regular custom and set patterns of consumer behaviour.

“Breakpoints in behaviour are sometimes hard to regain as people develop new habits. Online continues to be a winner throughout all of this.

“A permanent reduction in sector activity is possible and the market outcome will be fewer competitors.

“Those businesses who are likely to negotiate through this difficult period will successfully bring confidence to their customers that they are operating safely and adapt their product and service to meet new kinds of opportunities.

“Flexibility and responsiveness are everything in uncertainty, as is the ability to embrace new technology with a strong web and social media presence and changes where required to supply chains and employee working practices.

“Many have predicted a potentially severe second wave, not all businesses however will have been prepared, with the weakest likely to leave the market.

“Perhaps local insight and controls would be the most effective decision making position under a varied regional picture."