We are still in rescue stage.
The next stage of emerging from Lockdown has taken place. Pubs, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, hairdressers have reopened albeit with limited capacity and in some cases a limited offer. Many business will not be viable based on this model. We are still in rescue stage. The recovery has not yet started.
City centre re-opening was successful in most places in the UK . This was because of the preparation and work of local authorities, businesses and many other agencies who worked together. They made sure that social distancing messages and measures were loud and clear when shoppers came back to our towns and cities.
What happens after the Job Retention Scheme?
However the issues that existed before COVID19 remain. If anything the pressures on the High Street have been amplified by COVID19. The Job Retention Scheme (JRS) has been a powerful mechanism to keep people in a job. Recent estimates are that as many as 20% of the UK workforce is now being paid by the Government as part of the JRS. But as the summer wears on and employers begin to plan for a post-JRS world, many of those employers are making big redundancies.
Once the JRS goes, employers will have to start picking up the costs and the impact of COVID19. That impact includes reduced demand from consumers for some goods, certainly a move by many consumers to online retail and perhaps also a perception that online shopping is simply more convenient. This means more jobs will go before things get better. This means we are still very far from a recovery.
Workers on the margins are hit worst
The number of COVID19 cases has plateaued and daily death toll maybe going down but we are still experiencing the economic effects from a prolonged lockdown. That means job losses. And those job losses on the high street will be among those who are most vulnerable in the workforce – young people, part time workers – mainly women and people working erratic hours. It is not all “doom and gloom”. More jobs will be created in new sectors, in fulfilment, delivery. But it will be different and require different skills. We need to move from job retention to job rescue.
People are being laid off will need to acquire new skills and competencies. They may well have to switch into new industries. After the last financial crisis, many people are used to this. But the last financial crisis also shows that it takes a long time to recover. For individuals and businesses we are not even close to the recovery phase, instead we are still very much looking at how to rescue people and the livelihoods from the effects of this pandemic.