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Ed’s view: Christmas cheer or Christmas fear?

CN editor pic 2020 landscape

And so we enter the festive period at the end of a particularly gruelling year. But business and wider societal portents are once again paradoxically confusing. On one hand, trade levels in the UK catering equipment sector seem to be approaching pre-pandemic levels far quicker than anyone dare hoped, undoubtedly a huge positive.

Companies are hitting annual sales targets within the space of a single quarter, any available stock is flying off the shelves and projects are flooding in. But despite some fulsome recruitment campaigns, some dealers, servicing companies and suppliers are still short staffed and are pushing themselves almost beyond the limit to fulfil orders. Working around supply chain and materials shortages seems to be de rigueur, and the industry has once again shown how adaptable it can be.

However, on the other hand, a fourth wave of coronavirus is sweeping across Europe, and the discovery of the Omicron variant is giving everyone the jitters. Foodservice sites in the UK are once again reporting cancellations as companies nix their Christmas parties, and it remains to be seen whether this understandable nervousness will filter through to pulling investments in kitchen schemes.

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Many of our continental cousins have enacting full lockdowns or partial restrictions, re-closing the hospitality venues that are the lifeblood of our industry. It’s a supreme irony that these European countries are recording Covid case levels that are nowhere near what the UK’s have been for months, but the Westminster administration has had a tendency to stick its fingers in its ears and say “la la la” while the NHS cracks under the strain (a practical example of this is the 13 hours my friend’s mother recently spent waiting for an ambulance following a stroke). Personally, I welcome the reintroduction of face-masks in England on public transport and shops, and I think this should apply to all crowded public spaces – it should never have been optional. It’s a really simple and proven effective measure to reduce virus transmission.

So while I try and steer myself away from full soapbox mode, there remains a remote possibility of a UK Christmas lockdown or further restrictions – let’s face it, the more this government says something won’t happen, the more likely a screeching U-turn becomes. Of course we are in a vastly different position from this time last year with the advent of highly effective Covid vaccines, but if the situation gets untenable and there is a retreat from full openness of society, the hard won progress the catering equipment supply chain has fought for could evaporate.

Even if nothing changes in the UK, further European lockdowns will not leave us untouched. With our industry relying on numerous continental manufacturers, any local working restrictions there could further slow the flow of appliances to our shores and exacerbate the scantness of equipment heading into scheduled schemes.

So enjoy the busyness of your orderbook if you can (overall it’s a nice problem to have, although of course it brings its own challenges), and do try and enjoy the Christmas period too. It’s important that we all take time out to spend with family and friends – safely of course (I mandate a negative lateral flow test to spend any length of time indoors with anyone at the moment, yes I’m a real bundle of laughs) and ensure we decompress in order to regather ourselves for the year to come.

Tags : businesscoronavirusEditor's Viewopinionsupply chain
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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