The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on the UK’s economy. In addition to ongoing forms of lockdown, there is a considerable amount of projected uncertainty that will likely continue into next year. As the high streets have become largely shutdown, businesses have been forced to make the difficult decision of closure or to find ways that their business, products, and staff can adapt to a different style of operation.
The government has enacted its furlough scheme, which has allowed many employers and employees to rest a little easier by supplementing 80% of the worker’s salary. This has helped to keep many businesses afloat and their employees safe. Alongside this support, some businesses are going even further to support their community and economy.
The Extra Mile
Certain businesses have gained huge support by taking positive action during the pandemic. The high street chain Timpson have not only supported their staff by ensuring the addition 20% of their paychecks, but they have been transparent about their specific actions and costs via social media too. When one newspaper commented that the act of continuing to pay their staff looked to cost them around £500,000 a month, James Timpson clarified on Twitter that it was actually closer to £500,000 a week, adding that it was “worth every penny.” Other companies, such as Greggs, have enacted similar support. While it is certainly a huge expense, the positive feedback and support from customers have been overwhelming.
Nationwide companies that operate off the high-street, such as Crown Display, are also working hard to ensure strong support for both employees and customers, looking to ensure that the economy recovers as quickly as possible once the lockdown is ended. Retail furniture manufacturers will also play a key role here because will be supporting high street retailers as they redesign, refit, and transform their stores to accommodate new types of shopping.
Shopping in a New Way
For many retailers, a post-COVID operation will be difficult, especially for cafes and restaurants. No longer will extensive browsing and dining be plausible. For those essential businesses that have remained open during the pandemic, the flaws in our familiar operation of shopping have already become apparent. Shops are now creating more central space for customers to move, shifting stock onto vertical side spaces with slatwall panels, allowing people to shop at a distance. Customers are already being asked to refrain from touching a product unless they intend to buy it. As caution of contamination continues, this hesitant browsing will have to become commonplace.
Cafes and restaurants are beginning to campaign in London, contacting their local councils to allow them more space and to pedestrianise roads. Since dining inside their stores would be problematic, it seems that the only chance for their survival will be to offer more, socially distanced seating outside instead. Many cafes and restaurants are already using the time during mandatory closure to construct outdoor seating, ready for the transition.
Voting with Your Wallet
These businesses that have supported their employees and are readily adapting to a new environment for shopping and dining are taking on a cost. It is a considerable risk to take on such an expense during a time of uncertainty. However, their actions set a great example for an economy of community-focused and adaptable companies, ones that, during potentially difficult times in the future, will maintain integrity. So, when choosing a company to support, look at their actions during COVID-19, and choose those who deserve a place on the high street.