Jeff Prestridge  

Collateral of Covid-19

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Where do we go from here?

I do not have a definitive answer to this question – and I am not sure anyone does, whether they be medical experts, financial wizards, government ministers or the pope.

Let’s cut to the chase. 

We are truly living in the most uncertain of times, more challenging I would say since this fine country went to war to help rid the world of Hitler and Nazism.

Certainly more challenging than any of the difficult times I have lived through as an individual: the three-day working week of 1974, the stock market crash of 1987, the financial crash of 2008 and the horror of September 11 2001.

Although fighting coronavirus must be the world’s – and country’s – number one priority it is the collateral damage I want to concentrate on.

Our great country is on the edge of a financial precipice and I cannot see how it can stop itself tumbling over the edge.

Everyone I speak to who is in business is singing from the same hymn sheet – whether it is the delightful manager of the local Pret A Manger I pop into every working day to grab my usual 99p cup of scorching black filter coffee, or my brother, who runs a splendid arts and crafts business (Vesey Gallery) in Sutton Coldfield.

Sales are plummeting as the country heads for lockdown and overheads need to be pared back to the bone. 

Of course, there will be winners – the supermarkets, the toilet roll manufacturers and the monolithic online giants (Amazon et al) – but I would be amazed if we do not come out of the other end of this pandemic without mass redundancies and the country plunging into a nasty recession.

Numerous big listed businesses – be they retailers, cinema chains or airlines – will fall by the wayside, irrespective of Rishi Sunak’s various attempts to bolster the economy and safeguard a big slice of workers’ salaries.

Integral parts of our communities, everything from independent retailers through to football clubs and pubs, will also be stripped away.

Corporate Armageddon. Community Armageddon. UK Armageddon.

The recent travails of the stock market appear insignificant alongside the economic decimation (and loss of life) that will be caused by Covid-19.

Of course it pains me to wake up most mornings to the fact that the Dow Jones stock market has fallen another 10 per cent in value while I have been dreaming of past spring holidays spent on the exquisite island of Mallorca.

And it hurts me to think of the worry that many investors are feeling over the plunging value of their pension funds and investment portfolios – funds they are relying on to see them through retirement.