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great big business survey reveals impact of lockdown – but businesses now ready to bounce back

BusinessLive polled thousands of businesses to get picture of how coronavirus pandemic has affected them

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have had a “catastrophic” effect on many British businesses – that’s the clear message from our Great Big Business Survey.

BusinessLive launched the national survey last month to find out how businesses were coping during the Covid-19 pandemic and with the restrictions on business and everyday life that followed.

In total almost four-fifths of those polled said the pandemic had had a negative or catastrophic impact on their business.

Most of the 2,700 businesses polled had either substantially reduced their trading or stopped trading altogether during lockdown. Some 31% of businesses were not confident they would survive the lockdown at all.

A third said they had no income at all during the crisis. The majority of companies had furloughed staff.

Most businesses said they would find it tough to implement the social distancing measures they would need to keep operating.

We are revealing the results of the survey as BusinessLive and sister Reach titles throughout the UK mark #IAmOpen day to help businesses bounce back after lockdown.

BusinessLive editor Alistair Houghton said: “The pandemic and resulting lockdown have had a massive impact on businesses across the country, as shown clearly in the results of our Great Big Business Survey.

“Companies have been forced to close or furlough staff, while many say they will find it hard to adapt to working from home.”

'Catastrophic' impact on many businesses

Furlough and jobsMore than half of those polled had furloughed some employees, with 28.5% having furloughed more than three quarters of their staff.

When asked if they’ll be bringing furloughed people back into their business before the scheme ends in October, 28.1% said they would bring all staff back, 15.8% said they would bring some back, and 3.7% said they would rotate staff. But 16.1% said it would not be possible to bring back furloughed staff, while 36.4% said they did not yet know what would happen.

Around a third of businesses had instituted pay cuts for staff, with 10% of respondents saying they had instructed a pay cut of more than 50%.

Working from home, social distancing and the government response
Most businesses said it would be difficult for them to operate social distancing measures over the medium or long term. Some 28.9% said it would be extremely difficult for their business, with 34.5% saying it would be somewhat difficult.

More than half said their business couldn’t operate from home at all. But of those whose staff could work from home, respondents said they had generally adapted well.

The future
Of those polled, 16.1% said they were not very confident about surviving the lockdown. Some 14.7% were not confident, while 3.9% said their businesses were already closing down.

Looking at sales, 45.4% said they thought it would take their business more than a year to return to 100% of its pre-coronavirus turnover – while 15.5% said they thought it would never get back to that level.

Who took part?
Most of those who answered the survey were from the SMEs that are so important to the British economy.

69.5% of those who responded said their companies had an annual turnover of less than £1m while 65.9% said their businesses had fewer than 10 employees.

Some 16% of those polled were in retail – one of the hardest-hit sectors. Another 10% were in the hospitality sector, offering accommodation or food and drink.

Written by Nigel Black on 22nd June 2020