It’s that time of year, when Business Link Magazine invites the region’s business leaders to offer up their predictions for the year ahead.
It has become something of a tradition, given that we’ve been doing this now for over 30 years.
Here we speak to Kevin McGrath, Managing Partner and Head of Business Defence at Smith Partnership.
In common with most business leaders I sat down in March last year and tore up the carefully crafted business plan we had created for 2020 which surprisingly contained no reference to words such as “covid,” ”pandemic,” and “lockdown.” In the circumstances I am more than a little hesitant in giving my predictions for 2021.
Inevitably everything will depend on when we can finally get the virus under control and that is itself dependant on the roll out of the vaccination programme. The optimist in me would hope that by the spring, society will return to some form of normality but the realist accepts the summer is more likely.
When we do I think that the euphoria that will greet the lifting of restrictions is bound to have an immediate positive effect on the economy. People who have been stuck at home with nothing to do and nothing to spend their money on for months on end are likely to go on a spending spree with the main beneficiaries being the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.
The extent to which that can be sustained will be dependent on the more lasting damage caused to the economy as a result of business failures and job losses which will themselves be dependent on how quickly government starts to remove the financial support it has extended to business during the crisis
In the property sector at Smith Partnership we are planning for the conveyancing boom to continue at the end of the stamp duty holiday. While many have taken advantage of the stamp duty exemption many others have been hesitant to move due to the circumstances of the pandemic and concerns over job security.
So far as commercial property is concerned a lot will depend on how the market adjusts to the move towards home working.
I suspect that all business and financial services will be in high demand as businesses come to terms with the impact of the pandemic and adjust to the “new normal.”
One of the biggest challenges will be to make sure we continue to benefit from the gains we have made over the last twelve months. The pandemic has forced us all to implement radical changes to the way we work and embrace technology like never before. Remote working has become the norm and even the most traditional businesses have shown they can adapt.
Ultimately I remain optimistic for the future but then I am reminded of my business plan for 2020.