A new initiative supporting businesses and the local community
The effect Covid-19 will have on Devon’s economy is likely to be long-lasting and it could take the region years to fully recover. Given that a significant part of Devon’s economy is based around tourism, hospitality, agriculture and retail, the impact is likely to be greater than in other counties.
Between February 2020 and January 2021, it’s estimated that almost £1.8b of anticipated tourism business turnover and supply chain spend has been lost in Devon due to the pandemic. In the April 2020 lockdown alone, an estimated £233m of tourism business turnover and £45m of supply chain spend is unlikely to have occurred.
But what if it’s not all doom and gloom? Sadly, jobs have been lost and many businesses are struggling. But, what if the huge shift in consumer habits towards supporting local businesses represents an opportunity, and could, in the long run, bring greater benefits to communities and the environment, and help Devon’s economy to become stronger and more resilient?
One case in point is the online availability of many products and services that were previously only accessible to canny local shoppers. Best-kept secrets of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, tucked down country lanes and hidden in high street nooks and crannies. With restaurants, bars and retail outlets closed, many of these independent businesses – such as sheep farmers, brewers, cheesemakers, veggie growers and furniture makers – have had to start selling directly to the public. Many, out of necessity, have been brought into the digital age.
That’s good news for consumers who now benefit from more choice and access to the pick of the crop. It’s also great for local businesses, opening up new markets and growth opportunities.
Tourism and hospitality employ more than 10% of Devon’s population, while agriculture is an integral part of our iconic landscape and rural community life, as well as being vital for the food manufacturing industry and countryside management.
If these and other local industries flourish, then our local people, communities and even landscape are positively affected. Let’s not forget that buying local reduces our carbon footprint too.
This is why the Made in Devon scheme has been established, focusing initially on the industries that have been hardest hit. Industries that also have the potential to benefit most from new buyer trends and pent-up demand for restaurants, entertainment and holidays. It will then expand to include a range of other businesses such as manufacturing and service industries.
The acid test is going to be whether these businesses can and will continue to provide consumers with these goods once their traditional markets reopen. It’s also about whether we can encourage consumers to maintain their new shopping habits and ensure a year-round, pandemic-proof market for local businesses.
Made in Devon aims to promote quality local businesses – who are bona fide ‘made in Devon’ – to help consumers find them and support them to grow. This new scheme will help member businesses through a major marketing campaign. It will provide upskilling and training. This initiative is part of the Trading Standard’s Buy with Confidence scheme, so all members will have access to free expert advice to help them navigate through a myriad of new opportunities.
There will be long-lasting changes to Devon’s economy given the last 12 months; let’s make sure that there are plenty of good ones.
For more information about Made in Devon, visit www.madeindevon.org.uk.