1. Working from home or living at work?
The popularity of the ‘work from pub’ packages that have surfaced in recent weeks – Young’s, BrewDog, Drake & Morgan – show that office workers are keen to draw a line between work and home. It might currently be too soon to claim that British pubs are turning into digital offices, wholesale, but the benefits for all parties are clear.
Working from your local means minimal travel time but the advantage of a short walk – the ‘fake commute’ – twice a day, some of the social aspects of being in an office and a change of scene.
The costs to employers (assuming they are expensed) compared with opening and running an office are minimal and provide a crucial new income stream for the pub.
2. Chill time
Spending time with each other in our own homes has been off limits for much of the last six months, with the odd garden-based exemption. That doesn’t mean the desire to relax with friends has waned.
Geek Retreat, currently at 16 sites and planning to reach 100 describes itself as ‘a haven created by geeks, for geeks’.
Its experience-led format houses a café and a comfortable, vibrant space for board and console games, graphic novels, tournaments and quizzes. The shops proved as popular as ever once restrictions on non-essential were lifted.
3. Tangible treats: bread and coffee
Bakeries have been allowed to remain open throughout the year and have proved popular, showing that a quality product such as a proper loaf of bread, perhaps with some treats on the side, has enduring appeal.
Be they independents or a group like GAIL’s which has recently opened in residential Windsor and Guildford, for a small outlay they have the rare ability instantly to cheer us up. Similarly, good coffee, made to a very high standard by a trained barista with the best ingredients is difficult to replicate in a domestic setting and in any case, it’s just not the same when we have to do it for ourselves, as demonstrated by the phenomenal response to Pret’s monthly subscription promotion.
4. Homes & gardens
Home improvement has taken on a whole new meaning in recent months and retailers are responding by making their wares – typically available only at retail parks accessed by car – more locally accessible. Specialist Dunelm recently opened its new concept store in Crawley, West Sussex. Dunelm Edit showcases bestsellers picked by the company’s buyers in conjunction with local focus groups, a feature that will be replicated in each location as new sites launch.
Little Dobbies, an offshoot of the eponymous garden centre group, is set to open its first small format store in November, offering a range of convenience gardening products.
5. Soul food
The popularity of Eat Out to Help Out surpassed all expectations. Britons didn’t flock to cafes and restaurants in August because we’re inherently altruistic. We ate out to enjoy ourselves, because eating out is part of the fabric of our lives and we want to keep doing it, provided local eateries continue to offer a great experience in a Covid-secure environment.