Recession, recovery and post-recession trends: a report from the Future Foundation's Summer 2009 "Changing Lives UK" event

James Aitchison

The shape of things to come: green shoots vs dark clouds

The downturn has sparked a renewed interest in predicting recession-to-recovery shapes, first popularised within marketing circles by Sir Martin Sorrell's famous "bath-shaped" prognosis for the dotcom boom-and-bust at the start of the decade.

The WPP chief executive is anticipating an "italic L" to characterise the current slump which, in general sentiment, if not precise shape, chimes with the "Nike swoosh" offered by the Future Foundation's Richard Nichols.

In a 'Polaroid of the UK Economy' session, Nichols suggested that current signs of "green shoots" are counterbalanced by gathering "dark clouds", meaning that any recovery will be slow and tentative. And it's not surprising, given the brutally sharp contraction of the UK economy.