Chamber survey: Businesses struggling to reach customers but gradual reopening begins
The results of the latest Coronavirus/COVID-19 survey by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce indicate that in the final week of the total lockdown, a large majority of businesses have reported difficulties accessing domestic customers with most still reporting cash flow concerns.
After 9 weeks of lockdown, and a significant reduction in economic and trading activity, 66% of respondents to the latest Suffolk Chamber survey have indicated that they are struggling to access customers due to Coronavirus and the lockdown. With businesses and consumers holding off from spending, businesses are unable to make use of their usual customer base and as a result, cash flow concerns still remain incredibly high at 87%. This is despite government support in the form the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which most firms have made use of, local authority grants and numerous loan schemes. With some restrictions lifted in England on Wednesday 13 May, 26% of respondents have stated that they are taking measures in order to reopen immediately. It is hoped that the gradual lifting of restrictions will enable businesses to reach their domestic customers, and begin trading again. However, while partial restrictions remain in place and non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality remain closed, cash flow concerns could continue for the foreseeable future.
Of the responses to the latest snap survey, a weekly high of 23% of businesses have now successfully accessed the Bounce Back Loans. With low interest rates and a fast application process, the government approved loans may improve the cash flow difficulties being faced by many business owners.
John Dugmore, Chief Executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce added: “Having been in lockdown for just over two months, businesses are of course facing cash flow issues and struggling to reach customers. Businesses are doing their best to ease these problems by utilising government support. However, now is the time to rebuild consumer and business confidence by getting businesses trading. The chamber network are working with government on a restart, rebuild and renew programme to build confidence and ease the pressure on hard pressed business owners. Now is the time to increase consumer spending to boost the economy”.