Bosses' hopes for an end to office worker drought

(L-R) Deb Dominic from Hairsmiths and Cata Parrish from Re-Source General Stores on the lack of office workers in Norwich

(L-R) Deb Dominic from Hairsmiths and Cata Parrish from Re-Source General Stores on the lack of office workers in Norwich - Credit: Archant

High street bosses are still reeling after office worker demand vanished "overnight" with their bottom lines still paying the price. 

Despite the fact that Plan B restrictions have been lifted this week people working in huge office hubs around Norwich are still yet to return to their desks. 

And the lack of folk searching for a breakfast coffee or lunchtime sandwich is pinching vital funds from businesses across the city. 

Giles Hayward-Smith, barista and manager of Strangers Coffee in All Saints Green, said staff from the Aviva building opposite John Lewis constitute 80pc of their customer base.

He said: "Prior to Plan B coming into place in mid-December we had our busiest week on record.

Giles Hayward-Smith

Giles Hayward-Smith, barista and manager of Strangers Coffee in All Saints Green - Credit: Neil Didsbury

“The following week, when Plan B came into force, it was like someone had turned off a giant tap. It was overnight for us. They’d just gone.”

He has high hopes that in the coming weeks with Plan A reinstated, the demand will be back: “For us it will mean a return to normality again.

Most Read

"The queues are normally constant between 8am and midday.

"But we're also a busy shop in the afternoon because people are getting their second or third coffee hit for the day.”

And new data has revealed that businesses in the Fine City were among the worst hit in the East of England during the pandemic. 

In the region, Norwich ranked third for city and town centre firms which lost the most potential sales during the pandemic.

Further insight from think tank Centre for Cities showed that the number of workers coming in to Norwich had started to drop in December from a continual rise to August. 

It sunk in the final month of the year to 84 index points when compared to a pre-pandemic baseline of 100. 

Valentine Quinio, an analyst for Centre for Cities said: “We know that the lifting of restrictions works in terms of getting people back but we are yet to see weekday footfall bounce back to where it was fully pre-pandemic.

"It’s hard to know this time whether people will change their behaviours and come back a few days a week or even five days a week.”

Valentine Quinio of Centre for Cities

Valentine Quinio of Centre for Cities - Credit: Centre for Cities

She said that despite adapting to working remotely over the past three years, there are benefits to working face-to-face in the office.

Ms Quinio added: “Workers play a key role such as being productive and generating GDP, but also because of lunch-time expenditure, sandwiches in the cafe and evening dinner in the city centre after work.”

But with no concrete evidence of when the workforce will return businesses in Timberhill were nervous about the months ahead. 

Cata Parrish from Re-Source General Stores said: “I see a difference especially around lunch breaks. 

Cata Parrish from Re-Source General Stores

Cata Parrish from Re-Source General Stores - Credit: Archant

"People nip out for a coffee just to get some air. 

"Hopefully a return to Plan A will help cafe sales in January as they're not quite as full as they would be in the summer months.”

Neighbour Deb Dominic from Hairsmiths said: “It'll be nice to have people back in this area. You get a lot of people sitting outside the cafe and it just creates a nice buzz of people sitting out in the street."

Duty manager at nearby Two Magpies Bakery, Enrique Riverola, said: "It’s not just business like us which have been affected.

Duty manager at nearby Two Magpies Bakery Enrique Riverola

Duty manager at nearby Two Magpies Bakery Enrique Riverola - Credit: Archant

"When the workers come back, I definitely think it will be busier here.”

But he added: "Thankfully we’ve got so many regular customers courtesy of people who live or work nearby."

Elsewhere in the city Paula Wiley, from CJ’s Fruit & Veg based in Norwich Market, said: “I think maybe we’ll see more people on their lunch breaks when we go back to Plan A - hopefully with people coming back to their offices you're bound to see a change."

Paula Wiley from CJ’s Fruit & Veg based in Norwich Market

Paula Wiley from CJ’s Fruit & Veg based in Norwich Market - Credit: Archant