Boy, things have changed

The second COVID wave hit quickly causing further economic carnage for the hospitality industry as licensed premises were forced to close, 2 metre distancing came into force and a “work from home” edict was put out meaning that all offices cleared their desks. Being an entrepreneur in this environment is beyond tough; being a one trick pony is even tougher. If your sole source of income is from a licensed premises right now you are truly screwed. Who’d of thought in Jersey that selling booze could lose you your shirt!

Thankfully we have just one outlet that fits this category. How can you even begin to react to an overnight drop in turnover of 80%? For all those keyboard warriors screaming out for a full-on lockdown - remember livelihoods matter just as much as lives. 

It may be a bit late in the day for some businesses but never has diversification been a better way to mitigate the risk of these unprecedented times. It also highlights the serendipity of a decision we made based upon the decline of the visitor economy but which turned out to be a great survival strategy in the COVID era. The proverbial ‘necessity being the mother of invention’ moment.  

There will be people who’ll tell you that bricks and mortar businesses are dead in the water - they’d be wrong. There are still plenty of small local businesses that create a great customer experience with real passion, expertise and knowledge which people still hanker after in this digital age. Just like newspapers and books, their death has been greatly exaggerated. Thankfully we are getting tremendous support from the local populace but then again it could be because they’re all addicts! 

Of course on-line sales have gone from a “we must get round to building a website one day” to a part of our business that is currently on steroids. One thing that has amazed me in this area is again the incredible amount of local sales. We’ve been battling for years to establish a local on-line customer base, then lock-down came and overnight the market exploded, something that may have taken 5 years has taken place in just 6 months. Reacting to this dynamic change at speed is one of our on-going challenges as the opportunities are clearly exponential. 

So, what of the café businesses that dodged the liquor licence bullet? One thing’s for sure people still want to meet people. People who are working from home want to get out of that space before they go stark staring bonkers even if it’s just to watch the world go by and be re-assured that there is life out there. Maybe the next growth trend will be cafés/coffee shops in large residential areas rather than town centre high streets? 

This COVID year will scar entrepreneurs in much the same way a generation was scarred by war all those years ago. Some may think that’s an overdramatic comparison but the attritional nature of this economic catastrophe will create its own PTSD, mark my words.  

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