Executive Director of Bath Chamber of Commerce
Our members and the wider business community in Bath have responded to the challenges of the pandemic with their customary energy and creativity, devising working practices which have allowed them, where possible, to continue to operate.
Working from home and video conferencing have become the new normal and it seems quite likely some of that will continue in the medium to long term, where going into the office only happens two or three times a week for group discussions or team meetings.
The consequences of such a change could be far-reaching. If a company with 100 employees only ever has 50 or 60 of them in their premises at the same time, then they could potentially halve their office space. That won’t happen overnight, but there maybe businesses starting to think about saving money by renting smaller buildings which might free up space other businesses could take up.
The same may be true when it comes to retail premises, some of which will also become available. It will be worth asking the question about whether they should be used for something else, such as high quality residential.
It would certainly help the aspiration of making Bath an even more walkable city if a greater number of people had the chance to live and work here. I don’t imagine for a moment that very many retail units would be changed in that way, but it’s something that could be considered in a positive light and might make a significant change to the place.
Among the things that people have missed most is social interaction
Meanwhile shopkeepers have also been working creatively to give shoppers the confidence to come out of their retail hibernation by showing an orderly and hygienic way of shopping.
Among the things that people have missed most is social interaction, meeting people and seeing real goods rather than pictures on a screen. The ability to be able to satisfy the craving for that experience will be the unique selling point that should give our retailers a sense of optimism. Of course, price and quality will always be an issue for shoppers, but we have enough range in our chains and independents to deliver a great day out and I think that is key.
I expect the high street to continue to evolve from something which was just about retail to a place for shopping, eating and drinking, entertainment and a chance to enjoy our wonderful culture.
Things will never be exactly the same again, but thanks to the energy, creativity and drive of our business community, I think there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful
Great work is going on to ensure different sectors can work more closely, to produce an attractive offering which will continue to draw people into Bath who will continue to play a huge part in our future economic success.
So things will never be exactly the same again, but thanks to the energy, creativity and drive of our business community, I think there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful and remain confident that things might even be better in a variety of ways.
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