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POLITICS To help them do so, 36 per cent said they


would actively look to invest in activity that would help to diversify their offer to access new markets, while 25 per cent said they would invest further in staff training to improve efficiencies. Aatin Anadkat has diversified his market,


rather than product range, to ward off the coronavirus threat. His plant-based, allergen-free food supermarket Positive Kitchen, based at the Chamber-managed Leicester Food Park, had been operating for about nine months when the crisis struck. It had primarily sold to the foodservice sector


but when the supply line was cut off in one fell swoop, he quickly pivoted to focus instead on a direct-to-consumer subsidiary called Positive Bakes, which hadn’t been given much attention until that point. “We thought there was an opportunity for


DPI UK directors Sandra Wiggins and


Paul Tomlinson at the company's Castle Donington factory,


where they have been working during lockdown


The bleak outlook for the East Midlands jobs


market was reflected in the Chamber’s survey, in which 36 per cent of respondents said they had reduced their headcount in Q2, with only four per cent increasing their workforce numbers. And with the furlough scheme due to phase


out in Q3 – and ending altogether on 31 October – a further 34 per cent anticipate more staff reductions in the three months following the survey period. Scott says: “Clearly, there’s a long way to go


before the economy can fully recover, and there will be many hard stories at both an organisational and an individual level in the months ahead.”


In a parallel universe without coronavirus, Sandra and her team would be at their busiest, with the period between July and November representing their annual peak for workload. Instead, she is contemplating the future for


her business, admitting “we have no way of recouping that shortfall” and facing up to


thousands of pounds in debt that could be activated at any point in the coming months. DPI UK has already been forced to lay off two


staff from the 11-strong workforce that pre-dated the crisis. While the Government has promised a £1,000


job retention bonus for every employee currently on furlough – there are six at Sandra’s business – kept on the books until the end of January, she says the real impact of this is negligible. “How does that equate to three months’ worth of


salary?” she asks. “The Government isn’t balancing the figures here at all – it’s just deferred debt.” The Chamber’s survey did provide some


reason for optimism, however. While companies like DPI don’t expect to see orders pick up until the beginning of next year at the earliest, one in five respondents said they anticipated their business to return to 100 per cent or more of pre-lockdown activity levels by the end of 2020. A further 45 per cent said they would achieve this by the end of 2021.


gifting because people couldn’t see each other,” explains Aatin. “We didn’t change our lines but just where


they were being sent to. Since then, we haven’t looked back and have taken on a few more people during Covid.” By increasing its headcount of five people to


seven, Positive Kitchen has gone against the trend among small businesses. While the trade orders represented a higher


value than retail, it’s unclear how quickly his original client base will return so he has decided to carry through the momentum built up during lockdown.” Aatin believes he can continue with both


revenue streams and is even considering how to export his products into Europe, pending the outcome of Brexit, as he believes there is always a place for niche, high-end value products that have an obvious market proposition. “We weren’t sitting on huge cash reserves to


sit it out for three months and then come back because what were we going to come back to?”, he adds. “As entrepreneurs, it’s all about adapting and


evolving. You think you’re going to do something and then something else comes along that sticks. “It’s not that coronavirus has made it easier


for us, but maybe it’s accelerated what we were going to do – and we should come out of this wanting to grow at scale.”


500 400 300 200 100 0


-100


-200 -300 -400 -500


389 411 379 276 248 377 386 383


STATE OF THE ECONOMY INDEX 392


375 279 238 204 293 320 215 375 360 355


362


290 254 174 199 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 2014 2014 2014 2014 2015 Q2 2015 Q3 2015 Q4 2015 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 2016 2016 2016 2016 2017 Q2 2017 Q3 2017 Q4 2017 Q1 2018 Q2 2018 Q3 2018 Q4 2018 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 2019 2019 2019 2019 2020 2020 241


-411


business network August/September 2020


35


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