M&S is the latest of the high street mainstays to announce massive cuts to their workforce. 7,000 workers will feel the knock-on effects of the pandemic over the next three months. Unfortunately this is a recurring story of recent times, as retailers struggle to contain the impact that the virus has had on their trading and the demand for their products and services.
The job market is often a bellwether for how sectors are performing and recent analysis from the Keep Britain Working Job Index report, which uses reed.co.uk data (the UK’s #1 job site), shows that the jobs in retail have slightly recovered since they bottomed out in April but in July, whilst vacancies have plateaued, the applications received per vacancy (demand) has increased, most likely in response to the ending of furlough and more retailers announcing cuts to their workforce.
The picture of high streets around the country though isn’t uniform. There is talk amongst some traders that their sales have bounced back in more regional towns where people are working from home, commuting less and making the most of their local high street. This is in contrast to what is being seen in central cities where most days feel like a Sunday.
Some say the recently launched Eat Out to Help Out scheme is also bringing consumers back to the high street with retailers benefiting from the increase in hospitality trade although time will tell if this continues once the scheme ends.
Christmas may seem like a long way off but for many traders this could be a golden opportunity to take back some ground on lost sales. Typically, campaigns would start rolling out once the October half-term is out of the way and don’t be surprised to see lots of incentives in attracting spenders back to the tills. A lot of household finances have struggled of late but there are those with money to spend, with reduced outgoings (cancelled holidays, less commuting) adding to the savings pot. Even for those with less, Christmas could be a time to try and forget the past year and have a blow-out.
Whilst the present is of course the primary concern for many, small and local businesses would be wise to start turning their thoughts to the end of the year.
Early results in from a recent Keep Britain Working survey into the impact the pandemic has had on business has pointed to ‘demand in the market’ being the biggest challenge to their bottom line (for 1 in 2 businesses surveyed) and it’s the challenge that most are seeking help with right now (1 in 3).
Keep Britain Working is committed to protecting livelihoods and through this Keep Britain Working are hosting a range of webinars with Google, one of which is focused around Social Media Strategy. Many small businesses use this channel to promote their products and services, being cost-effective and relatively easy to navigate among the marketing mix. Take some time to consider your marketing channels and if you haven’t considered Social before, now would be the time to do so.