May 17th and June 21st are seared into the minds of most inhabitants of the UK: the dates on which UK businesses crawl closer to a return to normalcy.  Or so we all hope.   But will this be the case?  Will consumers return in the same numbers to restaurants and gyms, museums and tubes, as pre-pandemic, or are purchasing habits not fundamentally altered post-pandemic?


Pre-pandemic SMEs (small and mid-sized enterprises) accounted for approximately three-fifths of employment and around half the turnover of the UK private economy.  As we enter into this next phase of re-opening, as employees come off the government furlough scheme and businesses once again bear the full brunt of their costs structures, unless revenues come back with the same gusto, it would seem that a great many small businesses risk closing just as they attempt to re-open.  Given the importance of SMEs to the UK economy, this is a fundamental consideration facing the government and consumers alike.  In the case of some sectors, including gyms, pubs, restaurants, and theatres, to re-open while social distancing measures are still in place, threatens almost certain failure unless there is a well-financed parent company which is happy to subsidize the losses until further notice.


As these dates approach, it seems the average British consumer faces a more complex choice than ever before.  Heading back to the gym membership appears a weightier issue than just toning up those post-pandemic muscles.