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Rise in consumer spending is only half the picture, says Cambridge BID CEO

Sponsored feature | Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, writes for the Cambridge Independent.

Consumer spending has risen
Consumer spending has risen

Figures released this week by Barclaycard show that consumer spend in February rose 13.7 per cent compared to February 2020 pre-pandemic.

While some of this is made up of rising fuel costs, encouragingly goods such as beauty and clothes coupled with a return of office workers drove the non-essential category, that also includes bars and restaurants up, 14.5 per cent.

As spring approaches though, there are clouds on the horizon for consumers and businesses. Inflation is forecast to hit seven per cent later in the year and that is before the impact of the war in Ukraine is factored in. Consumers will also be hit by the increased cost of national insurance.

Businesses are also facing similar inflationary pressures, as well as increased wage costs, national insurance costs and the impending adjustment to VAT from April for hospitality businesses.

The government is really doing nothing to help the retail hospitality and leisure (RHL) sectors with their current and likely ongoing recruitment problems. Workers in this sector are not paid enough or seen as skilled enough to qualify under the current points-based immigration system even though in 2019, according to Statista, travel, tourism and hospitality contributed a huge £237bn of GDP.

Agricultural workers are seen as skilled enough, when this sector contributed only five per cent of the value of travel and tourism in 2019. It seems like picking our produce is very important but cooking and serving is not.

Locally, while there are very good training centres being established for the science technology, engineering and manufacturing (STEM) sectors I see little activity from those responsible with regard to the RHL sector.

STEM is vitally important to Cambridge and this region, but to coin a phrase, we do need to see some ‘levelling up’ of the training provision to ensure our education system is providing the skills we need to drive forward the RHL sectors in the towns and cities across our region.

Footfall in Cambridge remains less down at -12 per cent compared to 2019 than the national average of -19 per cent down.

From March 14-25, we have Restaurant Week in the city with around 40 businesses participating. Do take this opportunity to meet with friends and support the great food offer we have in our city.

Read more from Ian Sandison and Cambridge BID

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