JOHN WHITE CHIEF EXECUTIVE BACTA
There is a ‘genuine shortage of staff’, observes Bacta’s John White, and it’s making opening tough work for some operators. But the crucial summer holiday period is starting and the industry needs to start rebuilding balance sheets for the winter.
Coinslot: How has business been since July 19?
John White: It depends on the sector.
The seaside has been doing pretty well with good weather coinciding with school holidays generally, but we are now entering the crucial summer holiday period which will determine the level of stress the sector experiences over the winter.
High street AGCs have been doing OK with a return to normal-ish trading patterns. Customers are glad to be back with several reports suggesting that when they gambled online during lockdown it was not something they enjoyed.
Single site operators and manufacturer/distributors have fared very badly. Not only did they not get government support their customers got, being further up the supply chain any income from consumer sales takes its time to get to them. Yet they have to incur full costs in order to deliver their service. Manufacturers/ distributors will not see significant machine sales for many months to come effectively meaning nearly two years of business closure.
Most pubs are now open and with the removal of most remaining covidrelated restrictions there is an uptick in income, but nowhere near where it was pre-pandemic.
Cash will also be in short supply making solutions such as the Game Payment digital wallet so important.
It will take years for all businesses to rebuild their balance sheets back to where they were.
CS: Ping mayhem: what has the impact been on you and your team?
JW: Bacta has so far been very lucky. No-one has yet been pinged. However members report how difficult it is to manage so many staff phoning in to say they will off for ten days.
Many have effectively adopted the government’s daily testing approach as far more sensible and equally as effective.
Of course, staff cannot be disciplined for following government guidance but reports are that staff have been willing to help the business and their customers.
CS: Are you getting feedback on issues with recruitment or staff shortages?
JW: I am hearing that this is increasingly a problem.
With large numbers of East European workers having gone home and not returned post-Brexit/pandemic, and with lots of job opportunities in the market place, plus a reluctance of some people to return to work, there is genuine difficulty to get enough staff.
This has meant lots of overtime for those working but also shift reductions and even shop closures when the situation, coupled with the pandemic, makes it impossible to open.