Writer Tom Alderson considers Huddersfield’s post-pandemic future, in the company of Business Shows Yorkshire director Allan Johnson. Business Shows Yorkshire staged its inaugural event at the John Smith’s Stadium this autumn.

Following an incredibly tough almost two-year period for our business community in and around Huddersfield, Business Shows Yorkshire was finally able to hold their inaugural networking and workshop event at the John Smith’s Stadium at the end of September.

Not only was it a milestone moment for the organisation, but also for the delegates in attendance, including a high percentage who were engaging face-to-face with their colleagues from the local business community for the first time in well over a year.

Following hours upon hours of Zoom meetings, the event encouraged those in attendance to look to a future tinged with a little more optimism.

Allan Johnson, of Business Shows Yorkshire, said: “According to the UK Unemployment Tracker, the percentage of people in the Huddersfield area claiming unemployment related benefits almost doubled at the start of the pandemic, climbing to 6.9% overall.

“However now, by contrast, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, the local community is beginning to show green shoots of recovery, with Huddersfield claimants slowly falling in the last 12 months to 5.5% overall, with more and more businesses in a position to take on new staff once again.

“More generally, the number of Yorkshire businesses in distress has fallen by a notable 15% in the last quarter of the year alone, according to figures from business rescue and recovery specialist Begbies Traynor.

“It’s clear from the figures that more positive days are on the horizon.”

Resilient and adaptable

This recovery has partially been made possible by the resilience and adaptability shown by local businesses in the area, with companies providing goods and services able to evolve their offerings to cater for people remotely.

From coffee shops and breweries to independent market traders, determined and likeminded people have been able to deliver their goods to customers whilst battling the restrictions of various and have now put in place a framework for their businesses which they know can withstand significant adversity.

There is no doubt that local business ventures have also been supported where appropriate throughout the pandemic by their government.

Johnson believes that schemes like furlough and kickstart have had a hugely positive impact.

He said: “The furlough scheme offered companies, which was significant for a lot of smaller, local ventures, support in paying staff to avoid large scale redundancies, but the new subsidy allowance legislation, which came in post Brexit, has continued to offer aid to help businesses in their bid to survive and recover.

“Depending on circumstances, companies are entitled to £335,000 in Financial Assistance Allowance over a three-year period, and up to £1,600,000 in Covid-19 Business Grants, which can grow considerably providing certain conditions are adhered to.

“Furthermore, the kickstart work placement scheme has been championed by Kirklees Council to ensure an injection of job placement opportunities to 16- to 14-year-olds on Universal Credit at risk of long-term unemployment.

“This has benefitted both the younger demographic and has given employers the support they need to grow again as we continue adapting to the ‘new normal.'”

A changing dynamic

So, what does the future for local business look like? The need to be agile as a business is now more important than ever. If you’re able to make changes to your processes and structures on the run, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of overcoming challenges, which is often a lot easier for SMEs as decisions can be made quicker, by fewer people.

Certainly, with the dynamic and expectations of customers and businesses changing through the last 18 months, there is a clear increased dependency on being able to do things remotely, and therefore utilising technology is more important than ever.

Whether that is technology to help with the day-to-day operations or social media tools to manage your marketing strategy, the need to be more tech savvy is at an all time high and is only set to increase further. 

Johnson believes the hybrid office-home working model will present opportunities and challenges in the medium term.

He said: “For many enterprises, the pandemic has forced companies to find ways to streamline costs and this is a trend which is expected to continue. The number of companies working out of home offices has risen, with either a hybrid of fully remote working week seeing the need for permanent premises or office space diminish.

“It is also important to point out that even though we appear to be moving past the height of the pandemic, it remains entrenched in the public psyche. Therefore, it is crucial that businesses which can’t accommodate remote services remain diligent in their approach to health and safety, providing social distancing and protection where possible in order to maintain consumer trust.”

Johnson added: “It’s terrific to see the local Huddersfield business scene showing signs of recovery and we are confident, given the bounce back ability shown already since the beginning of last year, that the future looks very bright indeed.

“We’re pleased to have played our own small part in supporting the local economy, inviting business from throughout Huddersfield and beyond to come together at our recent event. Delegates in attendance exchanged information and opinions and, we think, left the day feeling wholly optimistic about what the months and years ahead have in store.”

For more information visit: https://www.businessshowsyorkshire.com/