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Businesses hit back at gloomy economic predictions for end of lockdown

PUBLISHED: 08:00 02 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:48 02 May 2020

Experts have warned that predictions on what the economy might look like when lockdown is lifted should be taken

Experts have warned that predictions on what the economy might look like when lockdown is lifted should be taken "with a pinch of salt". Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Archant

Businesses are holding their nerve over the potential impact of the coronavirus on the regional economy with predictions thus far being taken “with a pinch of salt”.

Quiet streets in Cromer during the Coronavirus Lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYQuiet streets in Cromer during the Coronavirus Lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A report published by the Norfolk County Council this week showed that economic activity could drop by as much as 41pc in some areas.

This varies from district to district with Norwich and Breckland being the worst hit and South Norfolk seeing the lowest drop.

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However, business owners and industry experts have warned that it may be “too early to tell” what the true impact of the virus will be – and have said that individual ingenuity will be what sees business through.

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Fakenham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYQuiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Fakenham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It’s too early to make estimation on what the impact of the pandemic might be,” said farmer Richard Hirst.

Mr Hirst’s portfolio is diverse across arable and livestock farming, as well as hosting leisure activities such as a fun park and maze.

“It all depends on how long lockdown goes on. If it’s another couple of weeks then that’s one thing – if it’s another three or four months then it’s entirely different.”

Agriculture is one of the areas identified by the report as being “adversely effected” - however a leading figure in the farming community has said the majority will not be impacted.

Empty streets in Lowestoft during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYEmpty streets in Lowestoft during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice president Tom Bradshaw said this week that he believed 80pc of agricultural businesses that at the moment are “reasonably unaffected”.

This disparity could be down to the currently available data, suggests Professor Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research.

“Currently the most up-to-date data with which we can make predictions is from a couple of weeks after lockdown and prior to that,” said Prof Bamfield.

“Of course we need to look at the data so we can plan and estimate how to help the economy down the line. However findings should be taken with a pinch of salt if you’re working with data which may not reflect the current situation.”

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYQuiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Prof Bamfield highlighted that in the key sectors the report looks at to make these predictions do not include retail or education.

“These are two sectors which could have a hugely adverse impact on the regional economy, with students potentially spending elsewhere,” he said.

He also highlighted that the charity sector had not been included - with the sector having lost £4billion in the 12 weeks of the crisis.

Councillor Andrew Proctor, leader of the Norfolk County Council, agreed that the full impact of the coronavirus crisis won’t be known for “months or years to come”, but plans had to be put in place.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil PerryAndrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

He said: “We need to start thinking about what those consequences will be right now. We don’t yet have all the information or the final data, but if we wait until we do it will be too late for many of our businesses to get the support they need to survive.”

A Norfolk entrepreneur has said that although the future may be certain, industries which are usually competing need to pull together.

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Greg Adjemian, of G&D ventures which owns pubs The Ingham Swan in north Norfolk and the Wildebeest at Stoke Holy Cross, as well as The Warwick Street Social in Norwich, said the leisure industry needed to pull as one.

Prof Joshua Bamfield, director at the centre of retail research. Pic: ArchantProf Joshua Bamfield, director at the centre of retail research. Pic: Archant

“The future is uncertain but we need to tackle that challenge head on,” said Mr Adjemian. “We were among the first businesses to close and I think my staff were wondering if I overreacted.

“What we need to look at now is increasing our standards around public safety when it comes to reopening. Food hygiene and quality have always been of an extremely high standard and we’ll be taking this time to retrain and work with staff so that customers feel confident in coming in when we do reopen.”


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