Last week, there were numerous conversations taking place between bemused operators, all discussing how many behaviours seem to have radically changed and that nothing can be taken for granted. It is just adding to the pressures which many are feeling.
The restart was always going to be more difficult than the pandemic’s lockdown which almost placed so many problems on hold. However, it is proving to be even more testing than was suspected.
For operators, they are now facing a perfect storm of major issues all coming together; rising energy costs, a slow return to workplaces, low International business travel, food inflation, delivery problems and, of course, major staff shortages. For London, it is booming on the one hand with visitors but the return to work is going to be a hard journey. Costs are naturally going to rise before the cash comes in to counter the rises.
Add into this equation, the fact the natural split between how many have prospered during the last 18 months; many consumers have saved more money during the pandemic, some have earnt more and of course, many have been struggling. It has changed the thinking of many customers in so many different directions:
· There are those who harbour fears of travelling into city centres
· There are those who feel under immense pressure
· There are those who mentalities have changed as they have managed to do their jobs from home, save money, reduce anxiety and have no desire to return to commuting
· There are those customers who simply have no understanding of the challenges that the industry faces
· There are those who have lost empathy and social skills during the long pandemic
· And finally, employees today hold the power and they want a better lifestyle. They are open to offers and retention will be a challenge.
Place all this together and it will take some time, patience and new thinking to overcome all the challenges being presented.
The questions to then be asked are:
· Has the industry changed enough, during the pandemic, in preparation for this time?
· Will we now see new thinking and new models emerge?
Privately many leaders feel the answer to question one is no and to question 2, the answer will be yes. Leaders feel weary and tired after guiding their companies through the last eighteen months and their focus is on the consumer/client. They understand that they need to win back customers and business in new ways, with new services and with innovation. The view is that many senior operational teams, below board level, have just waited for the economy to restart rather than really work to develop new ideas and to innovate. This may be understandable but has made everything that extra 1% more difficult. One MD last week noted that he just wants to work with those who work with customers as this is the battleground which will determine business success.