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Issue 18 - Spending Cash Becomes A Novelty & Redundancies Mount In The High Street

Since writing 2 weeks ago, I have been completing a number of annual review meetings on one of the online solutions like Zoom or FaceTime and I have even been introduced to WhatsApp, (which, after my initial reluctance, I found is quite user friendly) and that started me thinking about the levels of technology that are now part of our everyday lives and yet, only 10 years ago, they would have seemed like the work of science fiction. I know I am showing my age when say, “youngsters” today take it for granted that instant communications are the norm but for “oldsters” like me, I still find it fascinating and I just wonder what will evolve over the next 10 years.

Actually, spending cash is becoming a novelty as well, with many places insisting on contactless card payments only but you do have to be careful! The three of us had supper in one of the local pubs in Goudhurst last week and they had an App that you had to sign up for to place your orders and then food and drinks would be delivered to your table. We were sitting outside and tried to do it their way – Chris signed up for the App, placed the order, gave the bank details and sat and waited and waited … In fact, Chris & Lesley got there before me and they were still waiting when I arrived, so I suggested we tried again, which we did (twice) and eventually gave up and I went inside, ordered and paid at the bar and took our drinks outside.

With the various attempts at the online ordering though, we had a total of 3 aborted attempts, each of which then had a pending transaction on the bank account showing. When we queried this, the bar staff said they were having trouble with the App and they assured us that the payments would not be taken. One week later, Chris was debited for one amount and I still have 2 amounts pending. So, a trip back to the pub is in order to get her refund sorted – that’s my excuse for another visit anyway! But it is worth keeping an eye on these payments – contactless is great if it works as it should!

Have you tried getting an online grocery order placed recently? Chris had all but given up when out of the blue, the last 2 weeks, she has managed to book a delivery with Sainsbury so perhaps that aspect is normalising at last. It makes me laugh though, because I remember when I was 15, we moved to a village location which then was complete with 2 pubs a post office and a general store. (That would be a luxury today.) The store keeper was Mr Pike, (for Dad’s Army fans, I promise that really was his name!) and he used to deliver groceries around the village – he was quite a strange chap and I never thought about him being ahead of his time but perhaps he was.

We are now starting to see the redundancies mount up, particularly in the High Street and Leisure/Travel industry. Marks & Spencer were the latest to announce 6,000 job losses and Debenhams are on the brink with a potential 12,000 more and yet the home delivery firms like Amazon are going from strength to strength.

I read an article about this trend which I found to be quite interesting as it was arguing that rather than the problems in the High Street retail sector being caused by Covid 19, the process of change has simply been accelerated by the lockdown and the trend of online ordering and home deliveries was well underway and without change, the High Street businesses were destined to suffer anyway. As always, the businesses that are slow to adapt, will pay the ultimate price in the long run.

The other big news item at home this last week or so has be the debacle of the exam results and the overzealous algorithm that had been used to determine appropriate grades. Although I am not a fan of Nicola Sturgeon normally, you had to admire the very rapid U-turn in Scotland – what a shame that England did not follow her lead and avoid the unnecessary stress all round. Teenagers can be a handful at the best of times, let alone a disgruntled one following the exam results.  I am just grateful it did not affect us directly.

On the financial front, it has been interesting to see that inflation was slightly higher in the UK than expected but at 1% it is still well below the Bank of England target of 2%, so the impact of all the money being pumped into the economy is arguably starting to have an inflationary impact but only minor at this stage.

Talking of the Bank of England, their other recent thoughts are that even though the UK is technically in recession right now, following to negative quarters of declining GDP, they are now saying that they don’t expect the problems to be as deep as they originally thought and as far as the second quarter was concerned, April saw a big plunge in GDP but both May and June were positive. Not quite the “V-shaped” recovery some people had been forecasting, but these are steps in the right direction and if Q3 is positive, we will be out of recession once again!

Now all we need is a clear trade agreement between the UK and EU and for the US Presidential election to be over, (Let’s hope Mr Trump does not succeed in delaying it) and we might just get back into calmer water. It would be nice to think so.

There’s still a long way to go though, and there will be hurdles along the way, but to quote Theodore Roosevelt – “It’s hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

As always, stay safe and be vigilant.

With our best wishes

Richard Chris and Lesley

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