Paul Hargreaves: Change is Coming
This week I want to talk about change at two levels. Firstly, the local and sector-specific changes we have seen that I think we will continue to build on as the pandemic continues with less restrictions and, secondly, change on a global and national level.
I saw some data from Kantar last week that demonstrated that the 19% growth in food retail sales seen in March was entirely wiped out by a 20% decline in April. This is certainly not the case in farm shops, premium convenience and other independent food retail shops of all types staying open during the pandemic across the UK. I have been in regular contact with a few stores throughout this crisis and all are reporting sales 30-40% up on normal times. In fact there was other data out last week that gave convenience stores growth of 43% year-on-year. Many farm shops, despite losing business from their cafes are significantly up on the retail side to still be in growth overall. The British public is shopping more locally, which is great news for the speciality food sector.
Last Friday we had several calls from stores who had made the decision to shut down a few weeks ago but have now decided to open despite lock-down continuing (these are shops that were legally allowed to stay open). Maybe they have seen the success of those that stayed open. I do think we are going to have a stronger local shopping emphasis after Covid. Of course, some people will go back to old ways but many have discovered how good local shopping can be and will stick with us. Also many of those shops that have started home delivery will, no doubt, continue as customers will expect it.
Secondly let’s look at the national and global economic scale. I and others have been saying for over a year that that it is no longer ‘business as usual’. That has become even more blindingly obvious to more and more over the past six weeks. This Covid-inspired massive apocalyptic shock to the world economy is a superb opportunity to re-write the rule book or better rip up the old rule book and start again. This is a moment to re-shape our world so that it will still be flourishing for our children and grandchildren. A group called Imperative 21 which is a coalition of business networks representing 72,000 businesses, 18M employees and a whopping $6.6Tn revenues in 80+ countries are publishing a set of imperatives for the post-pandemic global economy.
These imperatives will aim to re-shape the economy so that the UN Sustainable Development Goals are not pie in the sky but become reality to all businesses. There are rapidly growing levels of inequality in the world, both in developed and developing countries. Our economic system which rewards the rich and helps them become richer whilst leaving many more people below the poverty line cannot continue. Designing a global economy that meets the needs of all people within ecological boundaries has to become a priority. An article in The Guardian a couple of weekends ago suggested that perhaps the global pandemic is nature’s way of saying, “STOP, ENOUGH, YOU CANNOT GO ON LIKE THIS”. How can you treat the planet the way you have and how can it be right that 42 people hold the same wealth of the poorest 50% of the global population? It is time for governments to realise that not all business is equally desirable. Governments and their fiscal policies must reward businesses that benefit all stake holders and penalise those who do the opposite. We simply cannot go back to normal, which seems to be most governments’ priority across the world.
It is time to realise that individualism is dead, it is not the way humans are meant to be. We are community mammals and interdependence is here to stay.