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Lockdown: who were the Winners and Losers?

With the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ approaching, we’re looking forward positively. Yes, there may well be further lockdowns in the future. But for now let us push those worries to one side, and look at some winners and losers from the 15 months of varying degrees of lockdown that are – hopefully – now coming to an end.

Bike Shops: 2020 was dubbed the Year of the Bike as people tried to stay fit, and sane, during lockdown. With public transport often unreliable and putting people in close proximity to one another, key workers turned to bikes to get to work. This meant that bike shops were classed as “essential” and enjoyed a consequent boom in sales.

Pubs, Restaurants and Bars: The UK economy shrank by 9.9% in 2020 – the biggest fall since the Great Frost of 1709 – and nowhere was this felt more keenly than in the hospitality sector. Brit’s vast “accidental savings” have been in the news – and a significant proportion of this came from not eating out or going to the pub. Even now, as lockdown ends, many places are struggling to re-open with so many staff having left the hospitality sector.

Pet Shops: One of the key challenges of lockdown for many people was loneliness. Unsurprisingly, pet ownership has surged over the last 15 months, with 3.2m households getting a pet during lockdown. 59% of the new pet owners were under 35, with 74% of those surveyed by the Petfood Manufacturers’ Association saying getting a pet had helped their mental health.

UK Tourism: For any business that relied on tourism 2020 was a desperately tough year. As country after country imposed restrictions, total visits to Britain fell by 76% from 2019 to 9.7m. Total inbound spending dropped by 80% to £5.7bn and total domestic tourism was down 62% to £34.4bn.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that travel will finally be ‘back to normal’ in 2022. Let’s hope he’s right.

The UK Video Games Industry: Let’s face it, you can’t be on Zoom all the time and, unable to go out during lockdown, huge numbers of people turned to video games, not just for playing, but as a way of connecting with friends and family. Overall, the UK games market was worth £7bn in 2020, up 30% from 2019, with hardware sales up 61% and software sales up 18%.

The High Street: Deserted high streets up and down the UK meant that 2020 was the year when several household names – including Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Laura Ashley – collapsed into administration. The UK lost 11,000 shops in 2020 and it is estimated that a further 18,000 might close this year. You suspect that whatever initiatives are launched, the UK high street will never be the same again.

We could all make our own list of winners and losers: Amazon and home-baked bread were clearly winners: cash – as we all paid with our phones – and a great many airlines were on the opposite side of the fence. Moving forward, let’s hope we’ll soon be able to report on the biggest winners of post-lockdown Britain.