Hundreds of businesses across Greater Manchester from indoor soft play centres and museums to escape rooms and trampoline parks reopened their doors on 17 May. We spoke to some of them about building resilience through the pandemic and the steps they’ve taken to reopen safely.
Soft play centres, trampoline parks, breakout room and museums are among hundreds of businesses that reopened their doors across Greater Manchester on Monday 17 May, following the Government’s confirmation that stage three of the roadmap out of lockdown was to go ahead.
The indoor hospitality venues permitted to open (or extend opening) across the region as part of this third stage include many businesses that have been hit hardest by coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Janine Smith, Director of Business Growth at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “Many of the businesses in Greater Manchester that reopened their doors on Monday have been closed for the best part of a year owing to both national and regional lockdowns impacting on their trade and services.
“Each step out of coronavirus lockdown restrictions has been a cause for reflection and optimism but this will be a particularly momentous occasion for so many of these businesses, as well as their customers and stakeholders, who have rallied around each other to keep going through some exceptionally difficult times.”
Since March 2020, thousands of businesses located in Greater Manchester have received various levels of guidance and support from GC Business Growth Hub to help mitigate health risks, adapt their provisions and services, reduce costs, and ensure resilience throughout the pandemic. Some of those that have received support include:
Flip Out Rochdale - an indoor trampoline & adventure park which has had to remain closed due to COVID restrictions.
General Manager, Imran Matadar, has worked with the Hub to apply for and secure a COVID-19 Small Business Grant, having previously worked with the team to access a carbon reduction grant. With further guidance from the Hub, Imran has invested in new hardware and has enhanced health and safety measures in preparation for reopening, with First Aid and Fire Marshal training for all members of his team.
Imran said: “We’re really excited about reopening but after being closed for such a long time, this does come with a certain amount of nervous energy too. We’re confident we have everything in place to help our customers come back safely and we now just hope to see plenty of people coming back through the doors.
“A successful reopening will not only be good for us but will also have a knock-on effect for other nearby hospitality venues. We can’t wait to get going and wish every other business reopening this week the very best of success.”
Head over Heels Play - an award-winning children's indoor play and party venue based in Chorlton. Following closure because of the pandemic, the business has installed and fit-out a new mezzanine level to increase their commercial floor area and enable visitors to socially distance when allowed to reopen. The business has also worked with the Hub to secure a £12,265 Resource Efficiency grant to part fund a heat recovery system. In addition to saving 66.7 tonnes CO2e, the installation of the identified energy efficiency technologies is expected to result in annual cost savings of £37,370.
They have also accessed a COVID-19 Small Business Grant with support from the Hub. This has been used to replace the onsite entry system with an online booking system, which has enabled pre-bookings and greater control to manage capacity and social distancing requirements.
Cathy Dunlevy, founder of Head over Heels Play, said: “It’s going to be an emotional day as the silence of the last 14 months is replaced by the sound of happy and excited voices. As one of the hardest hit industries we know how very fortunate we are to be able to partially reopen, as sadly many operators have lost their businesses during this time.
“It's a huge relief for the whole team to finally come back to work and to have those all so important social interactions with colleagues and visitors. But even more important is the support we’re able to offer children and their parents by providing a space for them to play, socialise and to have good times and create lasting memories. Indoor play has a huge role in helping to repair the damage caused by the pandemic and we can't wait to welcome back visitors - both new and familiar - to show them all the exciting improvements we’ve made in preparation for their return. Looking slightly further ahead, we’re also looking forward to the 21st June when we will be able to fully reopen and host birthday parties once again.”
People’s History Museum (PHM) - The UK’s national centre for the collection and conservation of material relating to the history of working people’s lives.
The Hub has provided advice on accessing the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, renegotiating contracts with suppliers, applying for a Small Business Grant, and implementing digital technologies to continue service provision.
This year, PHM were successful in securing Living Wage accreditation following a review of their suppliers. They have also embedded a new communications strategy which saw the launch of a crowd funding project, which, with the help of spokespeople including Sir Ian McKellen, Maxine Peake and Andy Burnham, raised £58,000 and has boosted membership of the museum.
Katy Ashton, Director, People’s History Museum, said: “Having been closed for most of the last year since March 2020 and delivering great work online for our audiences, we’re delighted to be able to welcome visitors back to the national museum of democracy. We are thrilled to once again be taking our place within the vibrant cultural landscape that makes Greater Manchester such a fascinating place to visit and explore. It’s time for everyone to celebrate the joy that comes from visiting a museum and experiencing the exhibitions, collections and stories that connect the past with the present and the future.”
People’s History Museum is now open (Wednesday to Sunday, 10.00am to 4.00pm) and people can book their ticket to visit at phm.org.uk
Breakout Manchester - a live escape room game located in Manchester city centre. Following support from the Hub that has helped Breakout to unlock access to a £50k Bounce Back Loan, as well as £45k in other COVID-19 restrictions grants and a £54k cash injection through the R&D tax relief scheme, Breakout is preparing to once again host challenge-seeking groups on its premises.
Ed Roberts, Director of Breakout Manchester, said: “By making a decision to diversify our business with support from GC Business Growth Hub, I’ve been able to launch new online gaming products that have generated income for the business through lockdown.
“Growth Advisor Louise Dolan and her team have guided me through a number of options, including help with claiming R&D tax credits that have safeguarded our operations. This has allowed for the retention and hiring of new staff to secure the future of the company as we prepare to reopen the core business. We can’t wait for the public to now have the choice of experiencing our fun and exciting escape rooms in-person, as well as online.”
Janine Smith adds: “While the outlook for businesses across all sectors is now looking more positive, there is a long recovery ahead and we continue to be here for business.
“No matter what stage your business is at, or how many employees; from start-up to SMEs and larger organisations, we can offer not-for-profit, tailored support, to help any business based in Greater Manchester to reach its objectives.”
The GC Business Growth Hub is Here for Business.