Green shoots in the spring for 2012?
The countdown to the Olympics is on and the UK is gearing up for the influx of visitors to the British Isles in the midst of the worst economic conditions that Europe has seen in years. But even after the events have ended and the 15,000 athletes, along with millions of visitors, have gone home, the retail and hospitality industries will still be crucial to the UK economy. Already, many of the more far-sighted companies in these industries are looking to the future beyond the Games...
"This is a massive confidence boost for the UK economy. Tesco is one of the world's leading companies and the biggest private sector employer in this country. Their commitment to creating jobs and opportunities for young people at what is a difficult time for the economy is fantastic news for the UK as a whole and for those people they will help into work."
The most significant announcement regarding job creation to come out of the retail industry recently was Tesco's announcement that it would be creating 20,000 jobs in the UK over the next two years.
At the heart of this programme, the UK's largest private sector employer plans to invest heavily in customer service through increasing staff hours and upping its training across fresh produce, fresh meat, bakery and its counter services.
The announcement also reflects a wide-ranging store refurbishment programme, covering hundreds of existing stores, improving space and layout and the overall shopping experience, as well as opening new stores.
As part of the recruitment drive, Tesco said that it expects to focus on giving opportunities to unemployed young people. It will also expand its apprenticeship programme to provide 10,000 apprenticeships, with a significant proportion for new starters.
Welcoming the announcement of jobs and investment, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This is a massive confidence boost for the UK economy. Tesco is one of the world's leading companies and the biggest private sector employer in this country.
"Their commitment to creating jobs and opportunities for young people at what is a difficult time for the economy is fantastic news for the UK as a whole and for those people they will help into work."
Tesco's UK CEO Richard Brasher said that, in the current climate, major businesses have a responsibility to "step forward, invest and create jobs."
He added: "Today's announcement is a huge shot in the arm for the UK economy. At the core of this investment is our determination to deliver the best shopping experience for our customers, bar none.
"We will invest in more staff on the sales floor at busy times, greater expertise and help in the crucial areas of fresh food, and enhanced quality and service across our stores at all times.
"To deliver this we're going to strengthen our customer service team - 20,000 more staff across our stores over the next two years."
Meanwhile, in one of the biggest job creation announcements for the hospitality industry, Whitbread has said that the expansion of its budget hotel chain Premier Inn and its Costa coffee chain will create 10,000 jobs over the next three years.
The group, which also owns Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurants, has created 2,500 jobs over the past year and intends to recruit a further 10,000 staff in the UK and Ireland by early 2015.
It has plans for 10,000 Premier Inn rooms and will continue the aggressive expansion of Costa, which has increased its UK store numbers by 158 to 1,375 over the past year.
Meanwhile, holiday company Center Parcs recently announced the construction of its fifth UK site, scheduled to open in spring 2014. The new development at Woburn, Bedfordshire will create a total of 1,500 new jobs, many of which the company will employ from the local area, as well as 1,200 construction jobs.
Construction will commence in the coming months and will include 625 forest lodges, a 75-bed hotel and spa with 12 associated spa suites and two main centres including indoor sports facilities, swimming pool, restaurants and retail outlets.
The Restaurant Group
Having benefited from its locations, which are largely based in out-of-town retail parks where footfall has been more resilient than on high streets, The Restaurant Group recently saw pre-tax profits rise by nearly 12%. Boosted by this, the company said that 600 jobs are in the pipeline, following hard on the heels of a successful expansion drive.
The owner of Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito restaurants, which has 400 outlets, said the 25 sites it opened in 2011 under a £29 million investment programme were producing returns ahead of target - offering encouragement for new openings this year.
It intends to unveil between 25 and 30 restaurants in 2012.
The next three years will also see InterContinental Hotels (IHG) create 3,000 new UK jobs in a move lauded by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who attended the launch of the firm's latest hospitality training academy at the new Holiday Inn in Stratford, east London. Some 1,100 of the new posts are expected to open up this year. At the event, Mr Clegg praised the "world-beating" British service sector.
Meanwhile, doughnut chain Krispy Kreme has shown no signs of slimming down its expansion plans following an acceleration in sales growth last year.
The company, which operates 46 stores and over 400 branded outlets, including a presence in more than 200 Tesco stores, opened new outlets in Bath, Cardiff, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Preston and Stratford last year.
Krispy Kreme pledged to double its UK presence between 2010 and 2015 to more than 100 stores, creating 500 jobs in the process, having seen a boost from new stores and deals with service station operators Welcome Break and Roadchef.
Joint managing director Richard Cheshire said the company would be opening in new cities, improving existing stores and launching new flavours, adding that the next 12 months "will see us bringing Krispy Kreme to even more people across the UK."