The children’s activities sector is bouncing back. Are you ready?

There appears to be a spring in the step across the sector.

A roadmap out of lockdown, some warmer weather and huge demand for children’s activities has significantly lifted spirits. This is long overdue. The events of the past 12 months have been the most testing in our sector’s short history and children’s activity providers have had to show resilience, courage and patience in equal measure to get through it, but that’s just what we’ve done.

There’s more to do of course.

While the vaccine roll out across the UK has been a success to date and it appears most of the data continues moving in the right direction, it makes sense to plan ahead with a sense of cautious optimism. With schools across many parts of the UK returning next week, we may need to hold our breathe for what could be a final bump in the road to recovery.

We know there are some concerns in parts of the UK about the return of children’s activities. We’ve voiced our concerns with MSPs in Scotland about a lack of clarity in their roadmap and how this impacts providers. We’ve also backed a new petition in Wales that’s taking off to get a date for the return of baby and toddler groups. You can sign that here.

However, overall the immediate future looks a lot brighter than a month or so ago. The countries economic recovery is being in part fuelled by strong demand in sectors like ours.

We’ve spoken to a number of children’s activity business owners in the past week who have started advertising their in person classes, clubs and camps once again and have sold out faster than ever before. Those who have been operating for key workers will know this demand has been there for months.

There’s a few useful things you can make sure you’re doing ahead of restarting in person activities:

1. Plan for a Covid-Safe return
Providers will need to continue operating with all the extra protocols they had in place last year and before lockdown so extra cleaning, sanitising, reducing the sharing of equipment, risk assessments, venue ventilation, mask wearing (as appropriate) will all need to be considered.

2. Track and traceability
If you’re still not using an online booking system, this is a good time to consider the merits from a health and safety point of view as much as a admin efficiency perspective.

3. Continue to invest in marketing
It’s easy to fall into the trap of not continue to invest in marketing simply because you’ve got fully booked classes/clubs now, but this is an area of business that pays to continue spending on. Do it wisely and keep it lean, but don’t ever stop. This list of low cost marketing ideas may be helpful.

4. Use the time you have now to consider the direction you’re heading
If you haven’t already thought about this, now is a good time to make sure your business plans are in sync with where you really want to go. Yes, you’ll need the boost of short-term cash flow and selling services should be a priority but having a plan will always hold you in good stead for both the short and long-term so try not skip this task.

We also want to mention the importance of believing in new beginnings.

Whether you’ve been running your business for 5 months, 5 years or 50 years, this year may feel something like a fresh start. We’d encourage you to use that to energise your business. Try to leave the frustrations of the past year behind and go again – don’t be frightened to go big.

You’ll see a picture below of where some famous companies once started. It’s not always glamorous running a business but with enough focus, determination and hard-work believe in yourself to build something remarkable.

Let’s use the next few months as a platform to rebuild our businesses and boost the lives of children who, as we all know, will need our support more than ever before.

By becoming a member of ICAP you’re joining a community of like-minded professionals and business owners in the children’s activity sector working towards excellence