A review that has ‘the vision to explore more imaginative initiatives to help breathe life back into the high street
JASON FROST PRESIDENT EUROMAT
How will you look back on 2020?
It’s been a disaster of a year which is likely to have a long-lasting impact on the industry and on players many of whom have been pushed or have migrated online.
Covid has had a devastating impact on R&D and when we eventually get back to attending in-person exhibitions you have to question where the new, innovative product is going to come from. The same situation applies all across Europe.
What, if any, were your highlights of the year?
It’s difficult to find any stand out highlights but certainly from a EUROMAT perspective we have been able to share country specific insights to the benefit of all our members.
In Spring when Covid was really taking control it was hugely beneficial to be able to talk about the hands on experience of countries which were at a more advanced stage of coping with the pandemic.
We held the EUROMAT AGM online which was a first and in terms of the way in which we have all gone about our work with colleagues, digital meetings and conferences have become the norm as has working from home, all of which I regard as positives. How have the events of 2020 changed your view on how you run your organisation, how we run our industry and how the various authorities run our country? Starting with the country, the Government’s handling of the pandemic has been extremely poor and confused.
The UK was extremely slow in going into lockdown, the lack of PPE was shameful, the guidance on wearing masks was simply wrong, failure to close down the airports – the list goes on and on. I’m not sure whether history will be kind to the government when students study the events of 2020.
In terms of my own business, I know that it needs to have a low stake, low prize online presence as a contingency. I am extremely proud of the industry for the way in which it has stepped up to the mark, opened for business and responded to the biggest economic, health and social crisis for centuries.
Covid, Brexit, The Gambling Review: what do you think will happen in 2021?
I fear that Covid will be with us for longer than most people expect. It’s not going to simply disappear and I can see us grappling with it through to the summer of next year. Covid has demonstrated that the industry needs to be able to operate in the digital age and be able to offer consumers a range of payment methods.
Some retailers will only accept cashless payments and we need the Review to facilitate issues such as this as well as having the vision to explore more imaginative initiatives to help breathe life back into the high street.
Continuing with the Review it’s vital that we don’t simply write to MPs when something goes wrong but engage with them, build relationships and invite them to spend some time inside an AGC and meet with their constituents.
I feel certain that Johnson always wanted a no deal Brexit and that he would supplement that with a series of side deals afterwards.
If you had to pick a Hero(ine) of 2020 who would it be and who would be your folk devil?
I think the stand out personality in terms of taking arguments to the heart of government has been Kate Nicholls of UKhospitality. She is a dynamic leader, a great communicator with a great PR machine.
My folk devil is a toss-up between Boris Johnson and his Health Secretary – so after much consideration I have opted for Matt Hancock who isn’t a good communicator in my opinion and has shown an unappealing side to his personality when questioned in the house and quite rightly put under pressure to explain policy.