11.6million jobs were rescued thanks to the furlough scheme (Image: Simon Walker/HM Treasury) This article contains affiliate links, we may receive a commission on any sales we generate from it. Learn more
Households have amassed £180billion in unplanned savings during lockdown, which experts predict will be splurged in the months ahead. Mr Sunak said that the great British spirit will see businesses flourish again. He said: “The recurring theme has been positivity, resilience and people’s commitment to get this country back on its feet.
“Something which has been boosted even further by seeing our inspiring Olympians compete these last few weeks.
“The UK economy has proved to be robust in the face of the largest economic shock in living memory.
“I know there will still be challenges ahead.
“We’re getting there, we aren’t done yet, but I am sure the Olympic spirit demonstrated by so many businesses will live on.”
The rallying cry comes after successive lockdowns dealt businesses a hammer blow, with almost every sector left battered, bruised and losing cash.
Tens of thousands of jobs were slashed as major firms including Pret A Manger, British Airways,TM Lewin and even Harrods felt the pinch, with the UK economy suffering its worst battering in more than 300 years.
But the renaissance has started, with defiant businesses declaring they will come out of the crisis stronger.
Mr Sunak’s optimistic assessment comes as experts agree there is plenty of life left in the great British high street.
Olympic grit is powering the economy (Image: Stanislav Krasilnikov/Getty)
Bakery chain Greggs, which suffered catastrophic losses during the national shutdown, plans to open 100 new shops and create 500 new jobs before the year is out.
Pizza giant Domino’s has opened 13 new stores and is planning further very rapid expansion. HMV, once a permanent fixture on almost every high street, was on its knees and placed in administration in 2019. But it has become a beacon of hope.
The new boss Doug Putman said: “The British high street isn’t suddenly going away. It’s something that’s very unique to the UK and we’ve seen from our own footfall figures since opening up from lockdown that there’s a real desire from the public to support physical retail.”
Dominic Paul, chief executive of Domino’s, said: “Covid has been tough for all of us, but I couldn’t be prouder of how everyone across the business has responded to serve our customers and support each other. As soon as lockdown hit, we had to stop the collection from our stores overnight.
“However, because people were staying at home, the demand for deliveries jumped significantly.
“We’re committed to investing in new stores on the UK’s high streets, opening 13 already this year.”
The Confederation of British Industry, which represents 190,000 businesses employing seven million people, also remains upbeat.
It said British business was “like a coiled spring ready to release ambition and investment”.
It predicted the world-beating Covid vaccine rollout would allow consumer spending to rocket as earnings recover.
Taxpayers have bankrolled a £352billion economic support package for jobs and businesses throughout the Covid crisis.
The job retention scheme ‑ or furlough as it is more commonly known ‑ has cost £66billion, but saved 11.6 million jobs.
It will continue until September 30 and covers up to 80 percent of a worker’s salary for the hours they cannot work, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
Unemployment now stands at 4.7 percent and is now expected to be less than half of what was feared a year ago.
There is still plenty of life in the high street (Image: Richard Klune/Getty)
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts GDP growth of 7.2 percent this year and 5.5 per cent in 2022 as fully vaccinated shoppers and restrictions on economic activity evaporate to create a perfect storm of consumer spending.
Established stores like Primark, H&M and Next will help fuel the recovery as customers revel in new-found freedoms which allow them into stores to try on clothes.
And starting salaries are now at their highest in at least 25 years.
Pay reflects increasing competition to fill vacancies that opened with the loosening of pandemic restrictions, a report by professional services network KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said.
The Government is set to publish its Levelling Up white paper in the autumn. Boris Johnson said: “It can only be achieved with a strong and dynamic wealth creating economy.”
Shoppers are now able to try on clothes in stores (Image: Matej Kastelic /EyeEm/Getty)Comment by Len Shackleton
The economy is growing rapidly, employment is increasing and business confidence is up.
With households having accumulated more than £180billion in unplanned savings over lockdowns, extra retail spend is likely over the summer and into the autumn.
There is good news from chains such as Primark, H&M and others. Much spend will go online but that share of purchases has fallen since shops have reopened.
Consumers are rediscovering such joys as trying on clothes rather than ordering them from distant warehouses.
But big changes are occurring. Traditional anchor retailers will not return. Debenhams is no more, and Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and House of Fraser plan closures.
However, there are innovations such as Amazon Go showrooms, while high street veteran HMV intends to open more stores with a wider range of gadgets.
Empty shops are stimulating rethinking about spaces, with landlords and local authorities mulling new uses. Relaxation of planning rules will allow some conversions to residential accommodation.
Other repurposing, such as a go-kart track in a former Debenhams store, will focus on leisure. Lower rents offer possibilities for smaller businesses, pop-up shops, craft workshops and rentable workspaces.
This mix of old and new may also be reflected in the way online-only retailers Boohoo and ASOS have snapped up defunct brands such as Oasis, Warehouse and Topshop.
In short ‑ it’s an exciting time for our high streets.
Len Shackleton is from the Institute of Economic Affairs
Comment by Rishi Sunak
I have been lucky enough to visit some fantastic businesses and their staff across the UK in the past few months.
The recurring theme has been positivity, resilience and people’s commitment to getting this country back on its feet ‑ something which has been boosted even further by seeing our inspiring Olympians compete these last few weeks.
I know Daily Express readers will agree that high streets sit right at the heart of our communities, so it’s great to see local businesses bouncing back.
Just over a year ago I first announced our Plan for Jobs to protect and create jobs up and down the country ‑ and our plan is working.
The UK economy has proved to be robust in the face of the largest economic shock in living memory. Unemployment is now expected to be less than half of what we feared a year ago, there are less people on furlough than at any point since the scheme launched, and the International Monetary Fund recently forecast the UK to have the joint highest growth rate in the G7 this year.
With the success of the Government’s vaccine programme allowing us to lift almost all restrictions, and retail sales significantly higher than they were before the pandemic, I am confident in the strength of the UK economy. But I know there will still be challenges ahead ‑ we’re getting there, we aren’t done yet ‑ which is why our Plan for Jobs continues to create jobs and makes sure people have the skills they need to thrive in the future.
We’re also continuing to invest to help local areas transform into vibrant hubs as they recover from the pandemic, including through our £4.8billion Levelling up Fund, the Future High Street Fund and the Towns Fund. As we continue to Build Back Better, I am sure the Olympic spirit demonstrated by so many businesses across this country will live on.
Rishi Sunak is Chancellor of the Exchequer