FOCUS FEATURE It’s the kind of space

you’d expect for an office fit-out specialist like Blueprint Interiors, but also a good example to its clients of why firms should avoid the temptation to have rows and rows of desks that is now causing social distancing issues. Chairman Rob, who

founded the company in 2001, says: “That’s a dynamic we’ve been working against for a few years now because that density of people doesn’t represent how humans behave at work, which is why in our office we don’t need to install plastic screens or map out social distancing. “The spaces we design look more like hotel foyers and other comfortable

Jeff Counsell, managing director of trentbarton

leisure environments.” Rob admits the end could be nigh for high-rise towers like the 800ft One

Canada Square, which contains 50 storeys of open-plan offices in Canary Wharf, as he predicts companies in sectors like legal and finance to move out of these spaces. But while this could lead to huge structural changes in major hub cities

like London, Birmingham and Manchester, also affecting the hospitality businesses that serve workers, he doesn’t expect such a dramatic shift in the East Midlands, which is already populated by out-of-town business parks. “But, ultimately, the use of space is going to change,” he adds. “There’s

an assumption that if people are allowed to work from home more, then companies automatically need less space because everyone had their own desk beforehand. “But having your own desk is quite sub-optimal in terms of how to

design a space. I’m sat in a space where I could fit in four desks, but it allows me to do other things. There’s also certain resources in the office that you can’t get while working at home, such as the social aspect, so I’m not sure the dynamic is going to change as rapidly as people think.”

IAN FERGUSON ISN’T sure city and business leaders have contemplated just how fast the coming changes will be. He believes Derby is on the right track by taking a mixed-use approach

with the £200m regeneration of the Becketwell area but wants to see more outside-the-box thinking as consumer spend transitions from material goods to experiences, and quantity to quality. “There are a lot of people struggling to get their heads around what

town and city centres need to do because no-one really knows how many of today’s businesses will still be here in six months’ time,” he adds. “But it needs a clear direction from leadership, and it needs some brave and radical decisions because we’re not going back to where we were.”


While city centre retail continues to struggle, the region’s largest out-of- town shopping centre has thrived during the pandemic, according to the man who runs it. In August, East Midlands Designer

Outlet announced three brands – Barbour, Under Armour and Molton Brown – will join the 60-plus stores at the South Normanton mall. Centre manager David Jackson

(pictured) says year-on-year footfall increased by about five per cent in July and August. “This suggests to me that outlet shopping absolutely has a place in the future of retail because of the price point,” he says. “Before Covid-19, business rates and rents in city centres were

astronomical. Big brands were doing fine – although their margins were never made on the high street so just existed as marketing tools for their e-commerce businesses – but small brands were struggling to keep their spaces. “The small out-of-town retail parks were seeing footfall reducing pre-Covid because

you never really knew what their USP was and had many of the same shops as in city centres. Now, though, if they’re not working as much in the office, they might want to travel out of town more and outlet shopping has given people a reason to do that.”

48 business network October 2020



The day Martin and Jess Barnett decided to close their sweet shops was a sad one – but it resulted in the thriving business they now run today. The couple, who opened The Treat Kitchen in

Nottingham city centre in 2014, before adding branches in Leicester and Derby, decided to change direction after witnessing some of the high street’s struggles first-hand. They instead focused on TTK Confectionery, the wholesale business that had been set up in 2017, and their products can now be found in more than 10,000 stores worldwide, including a recent UK deal signed with Sainsbury’s. And while they previously celebrated selling a

million individual sweets in-store, TTK now produces a million units – boxes, glass bottles or packets – each year. “It’s not even

comparable to the first business in terms of sales because of the sheer amount of units we’re working with now, so we’re definitely glad with our decision,” says Jess, who predicts a £5m turnover next year after growing 250% annually for the past two years. A real live wage employer, TTK now has two

warehouses near Sneinton Market and 30 staff – compared to about a dozen in the shop – including packers, designers and salespeople. There are seven Nottingham Trent University graduates on the books. The company sources its sweets from

manufacturers and develops products that will be sent to stockists – it dispatched 750 tonnes of stock in 2019 – often themed around certain events or demographics. Jess says: “It’s opened the door to a more

innovative environment and we can be more creative, as well as work with bigger customers and branch out into more general gifting items. “Some models work better in a retail setting but we

tried to diversify our model to survive. You’ve just got to be creative and offer something different – for us, that meant going into wholesale and it’s worked for us so far.”

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