Champions Round Table
State of the Economy
COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the global economy.
After months of lockdown, businesses are slowly re-opening at limited capacity particularly in the tourism and hospitality industry where social distancing measures have forced a reduced in indoor seating.
The fact that many local businesses have be able to re-open their doors after lockdown is testament to the financial support from central and local government in the form of the furlough scheme, business grants and a number of other packages.
The question remains, however, as the country returns to business what more can be done to support Chesterfield’s recovery? Better still, could opportunities arise from the pandemic? These were the questions debated at this month’s round table which was, once again, held remotely using video conference technology.
Organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, the round table brought together key figures from the local business community to discuss Chesterfield’s post pandemic economic recovery.
AM – Anna Melton – Director, In the Works PR (Chair)
SG – Stephen Gordon – Executive Director, Banner Jones Solicitors
EC – Emily Coy – Owner, Business Doctors Chesterfield
GS – Giles Searby– Director, BRM Solicitors
CH – Chris Hobson – Director of Policy and External Affairs, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire)
How will the economy be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
SG – Although I have confidence that the Government, particularly with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor, will do the best job it can but I feel this is just the start of the storm. The furlough system and the loan arrangements have, so far, shielded people from the negative effects of Covid-19, but we can’t hide away from the fact that redundancies are going to be made and businesses are going to close down. We’re waiting until the end of the year to really see how bleak a picture it’s going to be.
GS – I’m a little more optimistic. We are in the deepest recession in 300 years, but I think there’s quite a lot of opportunity for it to be a v-shaped recovery. A number of people have actually saved money during lockdown because they haven’t been going and it makes a difference. I think it’s important for the good businesses who are doing well to survive. You can’t save everyone and the Chancellor has been very clear about that.
CH – I think the shape of the economy will look very different when we come out of this. The shift to online retail has been turbo-boosted in the last few month – that’s going to be hard to come back from.
What more could be done to help the economy recover?
CH – There are three broad areas where you can get growth going – increasing government spend, boosting consumer spend and encouraging business investment.
EC – I think Rishi Sunak could’ve done more universal things in his summer statement. Perhaps a cut in corporation tax and VAT for all businesses, not just hospitality.
GS – I it was very much a job-focused statement. He has to keep something in his back pocket for the autumn, especially with Brexit on the horizon and the potential of having to respond to a no-deal Brexit.
CH – The D2 Business Starter Project has been really successful, particularly in Derby. There is certainly an opportunity to support start-ups. There will be some larger employers making redundancies so people will be coming out of them with some money in their pockets and the means to start a new business.
SG – Often in a recession is that people are forced to become entrepreneurial. Businesses shut down, people lose their jobs and it sometimes encourages them to set up the business they’ve been wanting to set up for a long time. With the right support from the Chamber and the Council for entrepreneurs, Chesterfield could actually come out of the recession very well.
CH – Smaller, independent businesses have a unique offer and I think they need support now to help them weather the storm. I hope people do continue to shop local and support these smaller businesses. I am aware that the convenience of online shopping isn’t going away. I know an online retailer that was expecting to hit a level of growth by 2030 and they’ve hit it now.
What are the opportunities for Chesterfield as the world re-opens from lockdown?
GS – This is the year of the staycation and that could be an opportunity for Chesterfield, especially with our close proximity to the Peak District.
EC – The opportunity for Chesterfield is in our market. Over the coming months, people aren’t going to want to be in crowded, indoor spaces. Chesterfield is in this unique position where we have a fabulous open-air market which is an excellent way to attract people into the town. I’d love to see more open-air events in the market.
CH – If we can support businesses on the high street through the next few months, then I think there’ll be an opportunity for growth as consumers gain more confidence.
SG – One good thing that has come out of this is that everything has become a bit more localised. I’m hoping that transfers over to business and people start looking for local suppliers and manufacturers.
CH – This is an opportunity for manufacturing businesses to start to innovate or diversify their products or services to tap into new markets. The pandemic has shown us the importance of the UK manufacturing sector.
EC – HS2 continues to be an opportunity for Chesterfield, particularly where warehousing and industrial units are concerned. It’s an opportunity to increase our offering and start attracting London-centric businesses that may be looking to now move out of the city and into satellite offices.
GS – I think the pandemic has rocketed us forward 20 years in terms of the whole agile working scenario. It was starting to happen, but this has certainly given it a big boost. You don’t go back from that.
Destination Chesterfield is part funded by contributions from local businesses, Chesterfield Borough Council and the European Regional Development Fund. The project is helping to improve the economic prosperity of the town through a campaign to promote Chesterfield.
The local business community plays a central role in its success by both leading an independent Board of Directors for Destination Chesterfield, as well as businesses pledging their support to become Chesterfield Champions.
For more information about becoming a Chesterfield Champion, visit https://www.chesterfield.co.uk/destination-chesterfield/champions/sign-up/