Every business and organisation in the UK has been impacted since the pandemic took its grip in March.

But Wearside is fighting back and here, business leaders discuss how the region is coping and preparing for the future.

We asked what are the most productive things you’ve seen businesses doing in the last few months as they respond to the unique challenge of Covid-19?

Stuart Reddish, Durham-based NFRN president

Those independent retailers – who were able to remain open – have gone above and beyond their call of duty throughout the coronavirus pandemic, by responding quickly and efficiently to the unique challenge of Covid-19.

Customer and store safety has remained a priority of all of our members throughout the Covid-19 crisis, and their efforts include implementing risk assessments, customer limits, sanitising stations, one-way systems, reducing opening hours, and installing plastic screens at counters.

As rules and regulations changed throughout the pandemic, our retailers immediately adapted their stores to meet the government’s guidelines.

Many members have created a digital solution to aid consumer and buying experience by either establishing a delivery service, click and collect system, or selling products through their social media accounts.

As consumer preferences have considerably changed due to Covid-19 – with many customers now preferring to purchase items online – this will undoubtedly help retailers to survive in the long-term.

Alison Gittins, CEO, Durham Business Group

It has certainly been a rollercoaster for our member businesses, yet the way they have adapted to the challenges faced has been nothing but remarkable.

When confronted with such uncertainty, the passion and resilience to protect their business, staff and clients has been clear to see – from increasing social media presence and joining online events, to sharing knowledge and supporting one another.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, and we’ve been encouraged at Durham Office Services to see many sign up to our virtual telephone and mailing services, enabling them to work smarter.

A time to step back, re-evaluate, create new opportunities, in some cases restructure, and appreciate and focus on the future.

There’s no getting away from the fact it is tough times, but personally I’m inspired by what I see, and I truly believe many will come through it stronger.

Our values of sharing knowledge, support, trust and building relationships have been at the heart of what we do and why we do it, and as we approach the 40th year of Durham Business Group, these have never been more true.

Joe Ridgeon, director, Hedley Planning Services

We are seeing a lot of activity as leisure sector operators push forward their plans to tap into the staycation market.

But it’s the projects that offer a new experience or all-round different holiday experience that will gain the most traction from a planning perspective.

For example, Woodland Park Farm’s development near Consett will see disabled and disadvantaged youngsters have family holidays while enjoying a whole raft of new interactive experiences in a safe and secure environment.

It’s clear that operators and developers across the leisure sector must have to think and act differently if they are to get their schemes off the ground.

This requires long term strategic input, planning and vision to maximise success – and firms like ours can help with advice and ideas.

Dan Makaveli, managing director, Media Savvy

One by-product of Covid-19 that has been a breath of fresh air for me personally is seeing businesses finally being forced to adapt to the digital world that the rest of the world lives in.

Since starting Media Savvy almost 10 years ago it has been a thankless task at times, encouraging certain businesses and organisations to be more effective on digital platforms – whether that’s working with file sharing platforms, editing live documents on web-based office software, or in some cases simply just using emails properly!

Overall, I’ve found it quite interesting to watch businesses adapt, (or not), both locally but also on a national and global level.

I don’t think the business world will ever be the same in our lifetime and when I say that, I mean hopefully for the better.

I doubt any of us want to see an end to face-to-face relationships but rather a shared acknowledgement that there are always alternatives and the new ways don’t necessarily have to be a second-best compared to the old ones.’

 

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