Mark Twain would often wittily say the most apt of observations as the above. Even we have lived with the pandemic for 16 months, there are still many who believe that most things will revert back to how they were pre-Covid. It is possible but it is unlikely. Much has changed more than many realise.
One example is that there are those who believe that the shortages of talent will become easier as clarity over furlough and any future potential lockdowns; that there will be a flow back to the industry from those who have departed. Maybe but it could also be too simplistic a perspective. More likely, companies are going to have to work harder to reach out to new talent pools plus increase wages.
There are no easy answers to the challenges to be faced as things as changing.
· It is expected that in the short-term City centres will continue to struggle for some time, whilst the suburbs will thrive. A number of employees are adopting hybrid return to work models which means that the daily commute may well not return to what it once was. International tourism is likely to remain suppressed for some time. This has a knock-on effect on economic activity in city centres which require a certain level of density.
· However, the counter view is that city centres may well emerge stronger. Although overall numbers of commuters may diminish, when office workers do travel in, it is expected that the main draw will be to use that time to socialise and spend time with colleagues and friends. This means that an individual’s financial spend when they are in the city is likely to increase from pre-Covid-19 levels, which might off set the reduction in overall numbers.
· Many businesses have been adapting their operational models during the last year. Many expect consumers not to revert back to old habits, as consumers want to see genuine change but what does this mean?
· One recent report estimated that only 20% of companies have a real and in-depth understanding of sustainability and yet this will become a primary influencer in how consumers and talent select what they buy and who they work with. Even though this issue has been well highlighted, still most companies are lagging behind in their understanding and knowledge.
· Longer term, we can expect some suburban high streets will prosper and thrive (particularly those around large cities) as businesses which had previously focussed on city centres adapt their models and move in, and new concepts emerge to meet increased local consumer demand.
· City centres will become greater destinations as they change and adapt to the new reality. It is estimated that there will be 30% less commuters post-pandemic travelling into cities. The City High Streets will be forced to change and new offers will be invented.
· Over 62% of employees want to see greater openness, transparency and honesty in business. 58% want to see greater collaboration between companies in support of society.
Whatever the new landscape is, it will emerge over the next year; but it is very unlikely that things will simply return to how things once were.