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UK Coastal trade 2020: Verb: Adaptable

Author: John Chappelle, Insight For Knowledge

Published: 23 Nov 2020

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Although no one ever wishes to rush the year away, so far 2020 on the Coastal Leisure and Hospitality sector has been one to truly remember for good and bad reasons, and its far from finished, meaning there could be still further chapters to be added.

In a year where the norm was changed, and a pandemic occurred which no one was expecting; or initially understood; the sector has displayed time and time again its flight of foot and adaptability.

The seaside resorts once released from the first lockdown have had by any standards a year where footfall and customers were coming at them thick and fast. Initial feedback is the summer as reduced was excellent, although its not clear how strong it would have been without the Eat Out to Help Out, as that did certainly seem to bring trade back into venues.

Government support on reducing VAT has also helped the businesses recover lost early season margin.

Furlough support and its flexibility has again further helped the businesses, by keeping teams together in periods of uncertainty; and stopping skilled staff from leaving the sector.

Operators, on top of this have worked hours longer than many can ever remember.

No one factor on its own would have achieved this, it seems the blend and overlapping has achieved a far better outcome than all, but a few might have dreamed possible in the very dark days of March and April.

This means many businesses can now look forward with far greater confidence than thought possible, and if they can unlock as normal in the Spring then with staycation seeming a real prospect for 2021, a fuller recovery might be completed next year.

Clearly, the coastal sector seems to have faired better than more inland urban areas, where the outside influences of homeworking has kept many customers away from those locations, giving a mixed picture.

As we sit in the early days of the second lockdown, yet a further month’s trade is not accessible, but on the coast its impact is less severe as the normal trade is always reduced out of season. As for the possible final chapter of the year, in December, its unclear what if anything that will bring for good or bad.

Bringing in the New Year with last drinks at 10 pm seems challenging, even for the best marketing of the trade!

And of course, the pandemic and all its human misery continues, putting all matters financially into some form of perspective.

I for one will not be too upset to see the back of 2020, its really been too wide a mix of good and bad.

Here is to 2021, and a safe year for all.

*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.