In light of the UK's Summer Budget, Geometry UK CEO Michelle Whelan shares her thoughts on how retail hospitality brands might re-imagine commerce.
Whatever else you might think of this government, you can’t say Rishi isn’t trying.
Retail wasn’t front or centre of his Summer Statement – with the notable exception of the hospitality sector. With more than 3 million jobs at stake, the Chancellor’s focus was squarely on the demand-side: a six month cut in VAT, which will hopefully feed through to lower prices, plus a subsidised discount of £10 per head on all meals eaten in cafes, bars and restaurants during August*. (* Small print: excludes meals eaten Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Excludes alcoholic drinks. Excludes non-participating outlets.)
The pandemic has taken hospitality to some strange places, as well as some dark ones. Restaurants have become boutique grocers; pubs have become ‘beer takeaways’; brands like Patty & Bun and Pizza Pilgrims have launched DIY meal kits; we’ve even seen gourmet meals available for delivery to park benches.
As Mr Sunak said, “we need to be creative to get through this”; and that’s exactly what many hospitality brands have done. They’ve found innovative and useful ways of serving their customers and communities during lockdown. The opportunity now is to build on this rather than revert to the norm.
Forrester talks about the importance of creating “higher frequency, emotion-rich relationships”. This must be the North Star for any hospitality brand that wants to survive the coming recession. Like high street retail as a whole, the sector needs to re-imagine its role and broaden its footprint. Learning from the past few months, outlets large and small need to find new ways to take their brand to their audience rather than waiting for customers to come to them.
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