By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (www.kalkine.co.uk)
It is a new beginning for the Britons after the Boris Johnson government opened non-essential retail, hairdressers, outdoor settings for hospitality venues, beer gardens, and some public buildings like libraries and others from 12 April.The first weekend saw a massive spike in sales as most people flocked to the streets after the three-month lockdown imposed in January.The total sales reported by the non-essential stores during the weekend stood at £1.8 billion, data published by the Centre for Retail Research revealed.
Though the pubs and restaurants in England have reported double sales in just a few days as compared to the pandemic times, according to figures charting Britain’s rush after the reopening, the road ahead of the hospitality sector remains rocky and stressful, according to market experts.
While most venues are still closed due to a ban on indoor service, owners and operators of such joints have requested the UK Government not to alter its plans to reopen indoor hospitality on 17 May and introduce any stringent rules like vaccine passports. Data provided by CGA and AlixPartners Market Recovery Monitor highlighted that only 23 per cent of English venues have been able to open for outdoor services, which have gained in terms of revenue.The combined sales for these joints were higher by 0.5 per cent than in 2019. But many are still waiting to even feel this pleasure.
BUSINESS RATES HOLIDAY
Going deep into the problems, hospitality trade bodies like UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), have highlighted the plight of indoor and other owners, operators, and workers and have requested Boris Johnson government to extend the business rates holiday for another three months in England so that the businesses get enough time to bounce back.
The trade bodies are requesting an extension of business rates in England until October 2021 so that indoor joint owners also get enough time to recover from pandemic losses. Currently, the business rates are scheduled to expire in July.Whereas the hospitality venues in Scotland and Wales have a full year of business rates holiday valid till 2022.
A latest Deloitte Hotel Sentiment Survey has revealed that hotel operators and investors across Europe expect disruption due to Covid- 19 to continue till 2022 and would need some government support to sail through these choppy times.
EXPORTS FALL YET AGAIN
Despite reopening of the sector, both in the UK and other European countries, UK food and drink exports fell by 9.7 per cent in 2020 as compared to 2019, according to a report jointly produced by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and Santander UK.
The report highlighted that due to a widespread easing of pandemic restrictions and businesses stockpiling products in the EU before December, UK exports fell by 1.7 per cent in Q4 2020.
The UK exports to both EU and non-EU countries fell by 8.0 per cent and 12.1 per cent, respectively.The topmost items exported by the UK also slumped due to the pandemic.The top items by volume are whisky (-13.7 per cent), chocolate (-2.3 per cent) and cheese (-7.5 per cent).
The UK government has been backing the sector as it is preparing to reopen, including restart grants to pubs worth up to £18,000, which is part of their wider £352 billion support package. But despite the sup- port, it is far too less as the road ahead is way full of hurdles.
Besides, the pub and restaurants operators are in an ongoing row over the vaccine passports or Covid health certificates, which as per the government, will help them in controlling the virus spread and might also be used to reduce social distancing.