As the UK continues to gradually lift the government imposed restrictions designed to protect its citizens from infection and prevent the spread of COVID-19, thoughts are swiftly turning to life after the pandemic.
The pressure is now on to ensure that the country’s national and local economies recover successfully – which means that we are relying on our businesses to spring back into action as quickly and as effectively as possible.
Much of London’s GDP relies on industries that are among the hardest-hit by the effects of the coronavirus, which has led to a hugely challenging period for the city.
So, which London business sectors are most likely to make a swift and significant recovery after the pressures of the pandemic and its resulting lockdowns have been reduced?
In this article, we take a look at few of the industries that appear most likely to bounce back.
Property and construction
At the start of the pandemic, with money lending freezes and a ban on household mixing – whether professional or social – it looked as if the property industry was facing an exceptionally difficult future.
However, the application of ingenious PropTech solutions and other intelligent approaches enabled buying, selling and letting to continue in an altered manner.
From virtual property tours to e-signatures, automated maintenance and customer service and online meetings, one of the country’s most valuable industries was able to keep itself afloat through sheer resourcefulness and adaptability.
According to Ruban Selvanayagam of fast home sales experts Property Solvers: “with interest rates at record lows and a keenness amongst prospective homebuyers for a change of scenery after the various lockdowns, we expect to see strong activity in the market moving forward. However, risks related to the end of furlough could come into play.”
Though the end of lockdown heralds greater flexibility in terms of in-person interaction, the property industry is likely to retain much of the cutting edge technology that was put in place to enable its continuation throughout the pandemic – meaning greater flexibility and accessibility for all and a potential boom in productivity.
There is also the possibility of an uptick in the buying and selling of property. Furlough and home working saw numerous professionals cooped up in their own houses, causing a great many to develop ambitions regarding additional rooms or a location nearer to green space.
The construction industry, too, is likely to experience something of a boom.
In addition to the lifting of restrictions that had originally caused many developments to be significantly slowed – or even temporarily parked – there is now greater call for new projects with features that enable easier home working, distancing and sanitisation, as well as better outlooks or proximity to greenery.
There is also an increased call for domestic renovations, extensions and other adaptations to property due to the need for homeowners to adapt to the pressures of working and educating their children from home.
The re-opening of pubs, restaurants and hotels has long been considered a major symbolic and practical landmark of the country’s recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
The London bars, clubs and other social hotspots that were able to weather the storm are likely to enjoy a significant revival – particularly following the further lifting of restrictions on May 17th that permits the reopening of certain indoor venues.
A Liverpool-based trial of potential new measures in clubs, which began on 30th April 2021, has proven promising – suggesting that customers may be able to attend events of this kind without the need for social distancing, as long as they can return a positive Covid test.
While budgets may be tight for some customers, the freedom to socialise and enjoy London hospitality is likely to be a significant draw for thousands – pumping funds back into this hard-hit sector.
High street retail
While the shift towards internet shopping began well before COVID-19 reared its head, the pandemic has seen an even more significant rise in online retail as a result of the “stay at home” guidance provided by the government as well as various levels of travel restriction.
However, the lifting of lockdown regulations is likely to lead to thousands of brands and outlets encouraging the return of customers to their physical locations – potentially by way of offers and other incentives.
It seems as though some high street shops will need little promotion as the general public gain greater freedoms; following the easing of certain restrictions on April 12 2021, the re-opening of Primark stores led to huge queues of individuals eager for retail therapy.
With 39 theatres on the West End alone, and at least 170 museums across the city, the temporary loss of London’s entertainment sector has caused a significant dent in its economy.
However, as restrictions are lifted, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, museums, galleries and other entertainment-related establishments – with capacities of up to 1,000 people – are likely to experience a long-anticipated re-opening.
The same applies to sports stadiums, which will be allowed to be filled to quarter-capacity – or to a total of 10,000 people, depending on which number is lower.
Outdoor events will be able to resume too, though they will need to cap their numbers at 4,000 people – or half capacity – again, depending on which is lower.
The lifting of lockdown will eventually mean a loosening of both national and international travel restrictions – as well as the reopening of sites of interest, as mentioned above, and stays in hotels and holiday accommodation being permitted once again.
This is likely to lead to a boom in tourism, as UK citizens and foreign travellers alike will once again be able to explore the sites and experiences that they have been missing out on since March 2020.
London’s West End gains more than 50% of its income and footfall from international visitors, and tourism contributes to approximately 12 per cent of the capital’s GDP, which means that it is vital that this industry gets up and running as soon as possible.
While many youngsters have already returned to school in-person, the reinstating of relative normality – including regular examinations and a greater capacity for on-site education without staggered timings – is likely to follow as restrictions are lifted.
A greater uptake of places at colleges and universities, as well as the use of halls of residence and other student accommodation, is likely too – as those who have delayed their education as a result of the pandemic will feel safer after being vaccinated and granted greater freedoms.
London boasts around 40 higher education establishments – one of the highest concentrations in the world – without counting London branches of foreign institutions, making this industry exceptionally important.
Not only do the institutions themselves pay a considerable amount into the local economy, but the student population is responsible for considerable levels of expenditure within the city.
Of course, while the lifting of restrictions is exceptionally exciting on a personal level and also suggests a positive change for both the London economy and that of the wider UK, it is vital that UK residence continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of infection to those who remain vulnerable.
As a result, while many businesses and venues will soon re-open for business, they may do so in a slightly adapted capacity. For example, social distancing, hand sanitising and the wearing of face coverings may still be required for some time in particular settings.
It is important that we do not attempt too much too soon when taking steps towards the “new normal”, which is why the patience of business owners and users alike is vital to the successful lifting of all restrictions.