P*ssed on by pigeons! No, it’s not a metaphor for something “deep and meaningful” on economic development. It actually happened (before social distancing was introduced) when walking through a high street, talking to local businesses. It was a particularly grey, murky day in February. It could have been worse – the title of this blog could have been “Pooped by a pigeon”! Town and City centres have faced pressures for several years. This post is not about pigeons, it is about the legacy of COVID19.
Issues such as rough sleeping, people letting their large dogs foul the pavement, drunks, people on drugs shouting and screaming obscenities, all add to the perception of a neglected City. These are difficult issues, with no simple answers. Unfortunately the Town Centre is where these issues are played out for all to see. Local agencies can and do make a difference. It is a small minority of people who are giving your High Street a bad name and perhaps more of us could and should challenge things.
The Black Swan
All these long standing issues over the “look and feel” of the High Street have been eclipsed by the “Black Swan” effect of CoronaVirus /COVID19. COVID19 is a hard to predict, high profile, rare event for the economy. It is completely beyond normal expectations in science, history, technology or finance. As different measures are introduced across the world, it is difficult to know how events will pan out, and what the implications will be for businesses across different sectors.
Pivots and Legacy
The Red Potato team cares passionately about economic development impact. The High Street was already in the midst of a crisis before the COVID19 crisis. COVID19 has amplified those issues massively. Suspending business for the High Street is going to be catastrophic for some shops. Who are these small businesses? These are the local independent clothes shop, the local opticians, niche restaurant, bars and cafes. These businesses may be very sensitive to disruptions to their supply chain – be that stock like clothes and shoes, food ingredients and specialist goods. If the stock isn’t in the shops then independent shops do not have a unique offer. And if consumers can’t buy the stock – think of your take-away coffee – then there is no business.
It is going to very difficult for many businesses and their employees. Anecdotally many independent businesses seem to be doing their utmost to retain their staff. Some business owners are already looking at how to pivot their offer and provide completely different services; be it a cafe owner who has decided to start selling homewares or the restaurant doing bespoke deliveries. The economy will be changed by COVID19 but, ultimately the COVID19 crisis will pass. That is why leading companies and entrepreneurs are already looking at opportunities to provide innovative solutions for the new economy.