Over two-thirds of retail businesses in Warwickshire expect to re-open after the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s SmartRegion report from May 19-June 8 has gathered information from the CWLEP’s business engagements and survey data, Coventry and Warwickshire Champions, Business Improvement Districts, Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and its Warwickshire Town Centre and Highstreet Taskforce teams.
The data shows 68 per cent who completed the survey by Warwickshire County Council said they anticipated being open after Covid-19.
Retail trade and wholesale – which was worth £3.285 billion in Coventry and Warwickshire in 2018 – has been the second most supported industry, at 18 per cent, by the CWLEP Growth Hub in the last few months in relation to the pandemic.
The Growth Hub has reported businesses showing an increasing need for support in business continuity planning including new projects and diversification, and employment support.
There were also financial and funding support needs as well as assistance for operational activities including supply chain and stock issues.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) has been supporting the retail sector by launching a new “Buy and Eat Local” campaign which aims to help businesses by promoting their offers to the local community.
A panel made up of WCC and its local authority partners held a Q&A called Covid Secure in the Workplace – Retail and Shop Branches ahead of further retail businesses opening from Monday and a further panel on Hospitality & Personal Care is planned.
WCC has also set up a loan fund to allow Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) across the county the opportunity to apply for up to £40,000 to enable them to keep supporting their towns while levy payers are less able to pay their bills.
A Warwickshire Town Centre Taskforce has also been established as WCC, the district and borough councils, BIDs and key partners such as the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, FSB and the Growth Hub explore how town centres can be helped further.
Coventry City Council has awarded grants to 1,500 retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, totalling £22 million, to support them during closure. A high proportion of traders from Coventry Market have also been delivering to residents that are in isolation during this period.
Coventry BID has been active in working with the City Council and city centre businesses to make city centre areas ready for reopening, and providing information and guidance to businesses on how to fulfil health and safety requirements.
Work on the redevelopment of the £82 million Coventry Station has continued during lockdown and other city centre public realm construction projects have recently resumed, ensuring ongoing Covid-19 safety and preparing the city to host additional visitors for UK City of Culture in 2021 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said it is vital the retail sector – and every other sector – was supported towards recovery particularly with more shops preparing to open from next week
“The retail sector has played a vital role in helping communities in Coventry and Warwickshire by supporting the provision of essentials, PPE, hand sanitiser and delivery services and the Growth Hub is looking at identifying ways in which they can be supported going forward ahead of their potential return to the high streets,” he said.
“Some retailers have been continuing throughout lockdown by delivering their products particularly those that also manufacture their products.
“The wholesale and retail sector accounted for 11.7per cent of Coventry and Warwickshire’s total GVA in 2018 which underlines its importance to the area and the various business support organisations, local authorities, district and borough councils and BIDs are here to provide as much help and information as possible in their recovery.
“There is a collaborative approach as the Warwickshire Highstreet Taskforce and Warwickshire Town Centres provide a forum in helping city and town centres across the region.”
He added that conversations with businesses have been diverse over the last few weeks.
Craig said: “Businesses have fed back on the positive impact of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Government grants but there has been an increased number of enquiries unrelated to the impacts of Covid-19 around innovation, sales and marketing, training and recruitment.
“However, there has still been a large number of businesses that have struggled to access the Government’s support and bank loans although the opening up of the discretionary grants scheme has been welcomed.
“As these schemes go live across Coventry and Warwickshire it is likely that demand will outgrow availability.”