This may be one way for businesses that depend on city centre footfall to move forward, but much greater focus needs to be given by Government in helping these businesses to pivot towards a new way of working rather than rely on a return to traditional working patterns.
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and many companies have found that whilst working remotely on a full-time basis presents challenges that would be overcome by a partial return to offices, many firms can operate effectively with their people working at home.
Therefore, companies that depend on city centre workforces for their living really need guidance and support on adapting for the future.
This is why leisure businesses should look to dynamic pricing to allow greater flexibility for its customers. This would allow pricing to adjust with demand, sending push notifications to regulars that attendance is low, with prices reduced accordingly. As demand increases so does the price which can encourage customers to visit later in the day when the venue is closer to capacity.
The Government wants employees to return to their offices which would be a boost to the world of food retailers, bars and gyms as well as providing greater collaboration and confidence that more face-to-face working is likely to bring. However, there needs to be a far greater investment in technology and help from Government to increase the data available and allow companies to find efficiencies or other gains to counter reduced footfall.
If the leisure industry, for example, had a greater insight on commuter habits then they could act accordingly. If they knew about the numbers of people coming into our towns and cities at different times of the week, food retailers and transport companies could adjust their supply, reducing the costs of wastage or of unoccupied buses and taxis.
This could work well for gyms, but also for restaurants, pubs and cafes as better use of data allows stock and staffing levels to be efficiently managed.
Businesses do need to change their ways of working. Going back to past practices will see many fall behind. A busy city centre will be a sign that the current situation is largely behind us, but for the time being many businesses will continue working remotely due to employee dependence on public transport.
Going forward, more companies will embrace smarter working which will reduce footfall in traditionally busy parts of the city for the economy. Therefore, whilst bringing people back into the city would stimulate leisure and hospitality businesses that depend on those workers, in some cases it will not be enough to counter the effects of the longer-term impact of changing trends. Greater focus must be given on helping these businesses pivot towards a new way of working.