Now schools are almost ‘back to normal’, will the economy follow suit?

Last week saw millions of students return back to school, after they historically closed down for the first time in years in March this year. On a more personal level, this was a sign of respite for families everywhere, after many mothers and fathers struggled to combat the ‘new normal’ working world, or everyday life at home with the extra pressure of keeping their little ones occupied. It now frees up part of their day to focus wholly on their work, and key leisure time spent at home. This also signifies another real step forward to life as it was pre-pandemic. 

Yet, things are not quite as they were. The high street is operating on limited hours, and main city centres are much more deserted than they were, especially with more people working from home. Our favourite cafes such as Pret are sadly being affected by this, as they constantly think of smart campaigns to draw punters back in, such as their new £20 subscription service, giving people unlimited coffee monthly for a flat fee.

But what of stores? Recent grads are finding it harder than ever to gain an all-important entry-level fashion job in the industry, after a tough time for many of our favourite retailers who had to serve redundancies due to poor performance in the Covid peak. Whilst doors have reopened and sales have picked up, retailers now face the challenge of tempting shoppers to shop their full price product, after months of different promotions which have led employee communications. Ecommerce is still thriving, with around three quarters of people now choosing to shop online, so when it comes to the job market, eCommerce jobs in Manchester are where things are picking up. Last month, Eat Out to Help Out drove people to their city centres, and some restaurants have continued to follow suit, extending their offers in a bid to continue to bring customers in. Will this be enough to make an impact, or will people instead prefer to stay at home now the autumn months are drawing in?

However, there is a change in shopper attitudes. Over the past 6 months, people have had time to think about what they’re spending their money on, making more considered purchases rather than investing in fast fashion. Essentials will always keep things ticking over, but avid shoppers are thinking about how to shop sustainably. This month #secondhand September is being promoted on social media, persuading shoppers to purchase items from charity shops and vintage stores, rather than new pieces. On the higher end, rental platforms are also becoming more popular, where consumers can ‘hire’ occasion pieces for a few days, rather than spending more on a piece they won’t wear again. Manchester, Birmingham and London department store Selfridges are pushing their sustainability pledge, pushing Project Earth, a wardrobe rental service, and repairs.

Whilst the high street is not what it was at the beginning of the year, it’s exciting to see movement again. Like all of us, retailers are adapting to this ‘new normal’, and thinking in ways that haven’t before. Now, the real test is the months ahead. Now as the rules begin to tighten again, we have to see what’s next. We’re all hoping to not go back to a full lockdown, but of course what’s most important is staying safe.