6th April 2020

Just under a month ago High Streets across the country eagerly anticipated help from the new Chancellor in his first budget. Little over 2 weeks later and with 12-month business rate holidays granted for all retailers the High Street now faces the greatest threat in its history. Covid-19, not so long ago thought of as only a problem in China, has forced many retailers to close their doors, with no one knowing for how long. Our thoughts are with every retailer that has been faced with this unprecedented challenge.

As an office-based company we are hugely grateful that technology has enabled us to switch to remote working overnight and effectively run our business whilst protecting the well-being of our staff, customers, suppliers and the wider community, which is of the utmost importance to us.

For our customers who cannot work remotely, we have implemented a number of measures including a triage questionnaire for all customers and suppliers to complete prior to entering any of our buildings, alongside a checklist of health and safety measures all parties must comply with.

Despite being fully functioning within 24 hours, building the capabilities for mass remote working has been a long-term plan for our 74-year-old business. We continue to pride ourselves on being dynamic, entrepreneurial and adaptable to change.

Our focus now involves working with our retail, restaurant, medical and leisure customers and standing by them during this difficult time. The Government announced assistance at speed which we hope will mean that all businesses will weather the storm. Some businesses are better capitalised and equipped to ride out the challenges faced, but one thing that will transcend every business up and down the country is the valuable lessons learnt from this to adapt accordingly to future head winds.

We have witnessed incredible creativity from businesses that continue to serve their customers. Some High Street businesses have switched on online operations overnight, serving safe and secure delivery to millions of customers. Multi-channel sales are nothing new but have never been more relevant.  Whilst we are restricted to remote working, there is an opportunity for businesses to adapt and build brand awareness. Through embracing digital technologies businesses can reach new audiences, refine strategies and maximise efficiencies.

Through hard work and support, our high streets and our businesses will come out stronger. Now is the time for businesses and local authorities to work together and ready themselves to deliver the most vibrant and diverse high streets we have seen. Places where we can socialise and spend time together will be all the more important once restrictions are lifted and the High Street will be at the very heart of it.

As a final note, the words of Peta Martin reflecting on post war life in the King’s Road and the arrival of retail revolutionist Mary Quant, bring hope and optimism and remind us that the light at the end of the tunnel is varied and bright.

You must remember that the war had only just ended and the King’s Road like most of the country was very run down”, Peta says. “There was lots of damage in the area as the nearby Lots Road power station was a huge target during the war as it was the main power supply for the London Underground. Victorian terrace houses were now sandwiched next to a brave new type of 50s architecture.

“Mary and her husband (Alexander Plunket Green) set the Kings Road alight with their new shop which stood above the pavement with a floor to ceiling window. I well remember her first mannequin…although I cannot truly remember the colours but they were vibrant and heady and the model was almost in dancing mode!  Nothing like that had ever been seen before.  It was a talking point in minutes, and as difficult as it may be to imagine now, caused amazement to all and sundry.”

In the face of adversity and through working together and adapting we can and will come out stronger.