If proof were needed of the serious troubles facing the hospitality and amusements sector supply chain, then the 20 personal experiences shared in this week’s Coinslot tells it all. As one industry figure said: “It is difficult to see a scenario where all of the existing machine suppliers survive this current lockdown.” Some, indeed many, will not survive a year without any central support. Government funds are urgently required.
In a week where desperate discussions over the supply of Covid vaccinations have been frantically arranged both here and in Europe, no-one can be in any doubt of how important the supply chain is to the recovery plan. Everything hinges on the delivery of the vaccine; we cannot afford for the supply chain to breakdown.
And so it is in the economy; and yet, the supply chain is broken – and for many in the amusements and hospitality sector – beyond repair.
In a special review, Coinslot has spoken to a wide range of businesses in the supply chain and discovered a sector on the brink following a year excluded from the vital range of government support measures allocated to the hospitality sector during lockdown.
“We have tried claiming through Government bodies and local authorities, but have been refused,” noted John Stergides of Electrocoin – one of the pioneers of innovation in the sector. “They rejected our applications as they said that we are not a leisure premises open to the public and therefore are not entitled to any financial help. We have been ignored,” he said starkly.
No access to hospitality grants or business rates support, Electrocoin’s experience is shared by almost the entire supply chain. The past year has seen most of these businesses dip into personal funds to keep cashflow available and increase their long term debt through loans – this without any trading or government grant-aid.
Challenging these obstacles has not been easy either. Reflex Gaming’s Quentin Stott explained how their local MP Robert Jenrick was “just fobbed off” when he took up the company’s case for a hospitality grant with the council. “Their written responses to him showed that all they’d done was have a quick look at our website and then regurgitated various aspects of their policy,” Stott reported back.
For the large, international groups, who have invested heavily in the UK market, the inconsistencies are equally frustrating. Zane Mersich, CEO of Novomatic UK, was in no doubt of the consequences of the absence of government support. “This will inevitably lead to a reduction in the size of the manufacturing industry, whether through a reduction in investment within existing companies or unfortunately some companies no longer being viable,” he told Coinslot.
And the worries extend beyond reopening as Gauselmann UK’s general manager Sascha Blodau highlighted: “Another important issue for government to consider is that when it relaxes trading restrictions, the go live date will not be the same across all sectors of the industry…Supply companies will suffer a time lag between consumer-facing businesses opening and the demand for product kicking in.”
All the more reason for action, now. Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, is acutely aware of this. She told Coinslot: “When the crisis has passed, if we expect venues to trade themselves out of danger and help drive economic recovery, a robust supply chain is absolutely necessary – nothing works without one.”
And it’s a view Bacta’s John White has raised consistently with government. “I continuously make the point to Government that without a supply chain the economic recovery when it comes will be restrained at best.”
And that is likely to continue both nationally and locally. Bacta has scheduled further meetings with national and devolved government departments and supply chain businesses are actively engaging their local MPs in the effort to draw support.