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Retail and recruitment firms see growth ahead of ‘freedom day’, but normality a way off for some businesses

·1-min read
Retailers are hoping ‘freedom day’ will boost footfall (AP)
Retailers are hoping ‘freedom day’ will boost footfall (AP)

Retail, advertising and recruitment sectors all showed growth in the run-up to today’s “Freedom Day” but hopes for a return to normality still look far off for a string of businesses.

Consumer spending on hospitality started to increase in May, but remains at less than 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

ONS senior economist Hugh Stickland said: “While spending on food, drink and accommodation have recovered somewhat from the rock-bottom seen during the first lockdown, it still has quite a way to go.”

Firms had hoped the easing of lockdown rules would signal a return to more normality, with social distancing ending in most cases, nightclubs reopening, and the legal requirement to wear a face covering being lifted.

However, Freedom Day comes amid concerns scores more people will be forced to isolate owing to the so-called “pingdemic” — or people being ordered to isolate. That could result in further business disruption.

Meanwhile office occupancy levels in much of the capital are expected to still be below pre-pandemic levels.

However, in an encouraging sign for the High Street, research group Springboard has forecast UK footfall will rise by 19.7% from the previous week following Freedom Day.

Matalan’s chief executive Steve Johnson said the April and May performance was ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

SThree, which helps companies fill science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles, said in London the amount of IT jobs its clients were looking to fill in June was up 168% and 82% on the same month in 2020 and 2019 respectively.

Elsewhere, advertising firm S4 Capital said “activity has continued at unprecedented levels in May and June, driven both by the post-pandemic rebound in global GDP and the acceleration in digital marketing transformation”.

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