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07 May 2020
Many countries are beginning, slowly but surely, to ease their lockdown measures. The light is very much visible at the end of the tunnel.
Now, the business community is starting to consider how they will adapt to the post-COVID reality. With shops able to open but social distancing still in effect, how will they be able to begin financial recovery without risking a second peak of infection?
If large gatherings remain prohibited, this will have implications for events, for travel, for sport and even for entertainment and the arts.
A decision is yet to be made, but the current football season is likely to be curtailed, and until a vaccine is available the beginning of the 2020/21 season may be played entirely behind closed doors. Theatres, trade shows and conferences may also be required to reduce attendee numbers.
Shops, pubs, bars and hairdressers may be forced to limit the number of customers allowed to enter at any one time, as is currently the case with supermarkets. This raises problems for high-street businesses who may find customers dwindle—in addition, a public more wary of the danger of closer contact may be more reticent to patronise their local shops.
Offices will be among the first to open, with reports now suggesting the two-metre distance rule may be relaxed for workplaces to allow more people to go back to work. However, firms will still be compelled to enforce some level of social distancing, with business-as-usual still some way off. That will mean continued home-working where possible, and less commuting as a result.
It’s not all bad news: many firms will have won themselves plaudits and an improved brand reputation over the course of the pandemic, thanks to their efforts to support key workers and local communities during the lockdown. Supermarkets, for instance, have been model businesses, putting in place measures to keep shoppers socially distanced, as well as launching designated shopping hours for the elderly, vulnerable and key workers to alleviate the impact of panic buying.
Some lockdown innovations may remain, such as restaurants continuing to offer takeaway and delivery. Other industries might join them to offset some of the losses of reduced footfall; perhaps we’ll see more hairdressers making house calls.
A new loan scheme for small businesses has recently been launched to offer firms loans of up to £50,000. Within 24 hours it had already received 45,000 applications. This, together with the pre-existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme, which can lend up to £5 million, should help businesses get back on their feet over the coming months.
In addition, domestic travel is sure to experience a major boost, as international travel restrictions remain. Places like Cornwall, the Scottish Highlands and Snowdonia are all expecting a massive increase in tourists as people are put off from travelling to the preferred destinations abroad.
One thing we know for sure is that we need something to celebrate after the lockdown ends. The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards is an opportunity to reward UK businesses that have achieved something special over the last eighteen months—those that have shown continued growth, innovation, entrepreneurialism and creativity despite the challenges of lockdown are especially welcome.
Sign up by the end of the week to take advantage of our Early Bird deadline, and get £100 off your entry.