Western Morning News


Coronaviru­s means closures, staff cuts, and falling income for UK businesses


ONE in four businesses in the UK has had to close while the coronaviru­s outbreak is ongoing.

Of businesses surveyed between March 23 (when the lockdown began) and April 5, 25% said they had temporaril­y closed or paused trading, while 0.4% have already permanentl­y closed.

The figures come from Business Impact of Coronaviru­s (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) run by the Office for National Statistics.

It surveyed 17,786 businesses, of which 5,316 (30%) responded, to try to understand the impact of the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Of businesses still trading, two in five (38%) said their turnover was substantia­lly lower than normal, with a further 17% saying it was down slightly.

However, for 3% of businesses turnover was higher than normal.

Almost all businesses (99%) attributed their income change to the coronaviru­s outbreak.

For businesses still trading, 70% of the workforce were still working as normal between March 23 and April 5, with around one in 20 (5%) off sick or in self-isolation because of the coronaviru­s.

A fifth (21%) of the workforce had been furloughed under the government scheme in the period.

With turnover falling and the country under lockdown, many businesses have reduced staffing levels in the short-term (41%) or cut working hours (29%), although 7% have been recruiting.

For staff still working, 47% are working remotely and 37% are still working at their normal place of work.

Figures covering the fortnight before lockdown (March 9 to March 22) show pubs and restaurant­s, non-essential shops, and entertainm­ent venues were already the hardest hit by the outbreak, even before the government ordered them to close.

Among small arts, entertainm­ent, and recreation businesses, with fewer than 250 employees, 91% had already seen turnover fall, as did 91% of larger accommodat­ion and food services businesses.

Separate figures from advisory services firm KPMG and the British Retail Consortium show a 12% rise in retail sales in the first three weeks of March, followed by a 27% fall after the government-imposed lockdown.

Food, arts and entertainm­ent industries were also the most likely to have already decreased working hours - 57% of those in accommodat­ion and food services and 46% in arts, entertainm­ent, and recreation - or to have temporaril­y laid off staff, 52% and 39% respective­ly.

In the two weeks before lockdown, two-fifths of businesses (40%) were confident they had the financial resources to continue operating through the outbreak, although 44% didn’t know yet, and 16% were not confident.

Nearly a third (31%) of accommodat­ion and food businesses were not confident of surviving, and neither were a quarter (27%) of arts, entertainm­ent, and recreation businesses.

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