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Getting into a flap - Ed’s letter


The post-pandemic period - which we very much hope we’re in - was supposed to be all about the Roaring Twenties. Flappers and Gin Fizzes and generally exploding with new-found freedom.

What we have found instead, as we reach for our cigarette holders, is a number of dampeners on our exuberance. The latest private sector PMI figures for May may have us tipping back the gin, but the budget bulk-buy brands stashed on top of the fridge, not those delivered in a crystal glass with perfect clear ice cubes by a smiling barman in a top hat.

Business expectations slipped to the lowest level in two years and the decline was most significant in the services sector, where consumer demand has weakened.

There are, as yet, no plans by the government to ease the pressure on business or the pressure on consumers, which is hitting confidence, as the only certainty seems to be an increase in the energy price cap in October.

There are signs that the exuberance is waning, with footfall down and the sound of belt tightening getting louder. The hotel sector is pushing up rates with success - but doing so to compensate for, in many cases, not being to open all its rooms because of staff shortages.

Will we see this operational shift across hospitality? In straightened times, much focus is put on the consumer’s refusal to give up those affordable luxuries; the daily latte. Of course, if you’re working from home - and saving the cost of the commute - the chances that you’re going to run into Pret are limited.

So rather than a return to the normal everyone had hoped for, we’re heading into a situation not too dissimilar to the pandemic, with fewer people leaving the house and a limit on operations. The sector responded to that challenge with cocktails in the mail and the embracing of technology. Those lessons will need to be leant on again.

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