What does the future hold once the coronavirus crisis ends?

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It is a question so many of us have asked since the onset of the coronavirus crisis.

Just what is the future for our communities and town centres once the pandemic is eventually defeated?

Will all our favourite retailers, bars and restaurants open as normal at the first opportunity?

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Or will the “new normal” – so often discussed and so little defined – simply translate into yet more casualties on an already under-pressure High Street.

North East academic Professor Lawrence Bellamy has taken an in-depth glimpse at society’s potential future.North East academic Professor Lawrence Bellamy has taken an in-depth glimpse at society’s potential future.
North East academic Professor Lawrence Bellamy has taken an in-depth glimpse at society’s potential future.

North East academic Professor Lawrence Bellamy has taken an in-depth glimpse at society’s potential future.

Not only do his thoughts cover retail, but also commuting, holidays, leisure time, construction, IT skills, debt, pensions and investments.

"The Covid-19 occurrence will have a substantive and permanent impact on the way which society operates in the future.

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“The forced adoption of different ways of working, socially interacting, shopping and undertaking leisure will stay with us.

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, of Sunderland University.Professor Lawrence Bellamy, of Sunderland University.
Professor Lawrence Bellamy, of Sunderland University.

"More people will now spend more of the time working from home.

“This will mean a reduction in demand for office space, reduced transportation requirements and congestion and an increased reliance and need for good information systems and technology.

“For those industries which are knowledge-based then specialist workers could input from anywhere.

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"Some industries are likely to boom, with high demand for online shopping and associated supply and distribution driving custom to those organisations who are well-organised in marketing and delivering their goods and services, either locally through the whole process or through a well-organised global supply chain.

"Having made the conversion, some people may not go back to being a ‘traditional’ consumer with trips to the shops, now that they have learnt about online convenience and developed the skills and confidence.

"The weaker retailers will be shaken out leaving fewer stronger firms in control of the overall spend.

“However, small innovative firms who are starting out online may find new customer opportunities in the changed market too.

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"Leisure time and virtual consumption will continue to grow, with large platforms having seen continued growth in demand.

“Games, media, interactive content are high-tech and skills associated with content generation as well as delivery are important.”

Prof Bellamy, academic dean at the faculty of business, law and tourism at the University of Sunderland, added: "The upskilling requirements for existing organisations are likely to be just as large as the demand for new workers in these sectors. These ‘products’ can come from anywhere.

"The overall economy will be significantly challenged, both by recovery but also by long-term debt, with the Government billions being pumped in currently needing to be recovered over time.

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“There will be winners and losers in this, as indicated re sectors, but also at a personal level where pension funds may be hit and people may need to work for longer to be able to afford to retire.

"Investors will start to refocus their portfolios towards the growth areas. Uncertainty around large investments is also likely to take a while to ease, putting off the new car or house move perhaps, or new shopping centre.

"Travel too will be held for many, with alternative more local holidays, staycations and home projects taking precedence.

“There will however be a bounce-back in some areas, for example where projects have been held and require completing. Construction often offers green-shoots first.

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"So overall it will be a very mixed picture, with the only certainty being that tomorrow will not look like today and will be very different from yesterday."

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