The Great British public is tentative. While pubs will probably do good trade tomorrow and God knows the nation from Boris down needs a haircut, other parts of the economy remain mired in lockdown mode.
I called in to the Westfield near White City the other day to do my patriotic duty – SuperDry shorts and sunglasses – and have seldom felt so alone in a public space. It wasn’t a shopping centre, it was a ghost town. There was plenty of supply and not enough demand.
This fear of public spaces is perfectly understandable. If you hold a nightly TV special for weeks on end, the theme of which is “How many of us died today”, folk are going to feel nervous. For a while, that was the point. They needed to be nervous.
It is time to move on. Today’s latest PMI stats offer at least some hope. The CIPS/Markit survey is one of those unwieldy, if closely watched estimates, that don’t make a lot of sense to non-economists. Broadly, a number above 50 means growth. Anything below it means contraction.
The June figure, as lockdown eased, is 47.7 – which is nearly there and way better than the 30 in May and the 13.8 recorded in April when the economy was intentionally ground to a halt.
Today’s figures show that business is ready to start moving. It needs the public to follow its lead. For most of us, a mask, hand-sanitizer, social distancing and contactless payment leads to a perfectly acceptable level of risk.
Enough of the caution; let’s go for it.