So, the success of the Jubilee and Andy Murray at Wimbledon, as well as England’s mildly respectable showing at Euro 2012, has made the first half of summer rather enjoyable despite the awful weather. With the Olympic and Paralympic games to come in London, the summer of 2012 looks set to be a successful one for the nation and retail in particular, despite European-wide economic despair.
This has been backed up by the British Retail Consortium’s latest figures that show sales, on a like-for-like
basis, increased by 1.4 per cent compared with June last year. Total sales,
taking into account new store openings, increased by 3.5 per cent.
Shops are selling Union Jack dresses, cakes, napkins and bunting like they’re going out of fashion. The Olympic torch-bearers are coping with the comedy outfits and eBay temptations, and are leaving a fine trail of enthusiasm and positivity in their wake. And there are street parties and Olympic-themed barbeques abound, thus ensuring we cannot fail to have a good time over the next couple of months. This will all lead to additional spend in our stores, higher frequency of last-minute dashes to buy some Pimms at 10.45pm on a Friday night and, without doubt, a well-needed boost to our general mood and personal happiness.
But what happens afterwards? I’m not too concerned about the short-term, as late-August will most likely become an end-of-season hangover with half the population heading overseas for a couple of weeks. No, I’m thinking about this time next year, the year after, and other years when we don’t have global events on our shores to boost our economy and bring in tourism. Many other nations have annual events that, by default, lead to a significant uplift in spend as tourists (both homegrown and foreign) plan visits to these destinations.
A variety of examples spring to mind. The Rio Carnival. Queen’s Day in Amsterdam. The Nadaam Festival in Mongolia. La fiesta del Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain. The list goes on (I’m sure you can think of plenty of others – Michael Palin and Simon Reeve seem to stumble upon these every time they arrive at another port.) But my point is this. Isn’t it about time our nation had an annual event that spurred levels of tourism at a traditionally quiet time of the year?
How about turning St George’s Day into an annual festival? Seeing as we have little interest in St George himself, we could rename this ‘UK Freedom Day’ when we put on street parties, spend time actually talking to our neighbours and spend a little extra cash as a result? All we would need would be some UK figureheads from all our respective nations to lend their support (think Ewan McGregor, Tom Jones, James Nesbitt and Gary Barlow) and we’re in business.
We could have the festival on the nearest weekend to 23rd of April so most of us would not need to take time off work, limiting reasons for the commercial sector to get nervous. On the bright side, there would be something exciting for the public to look forward to that could generate much goodwill as well as becoming an annual ‘Launchpad for Summer’ that created extra revenue. At the same time, we could bathe in the confidence that millions of extra tourists will be visiting our shores and putting additional pounds in the pockets of our hotels, restaurants and shops.
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