The UK’s rapid rollout of Covid-19 vaccines has boosted SME confidence up and down the country, yet a quarter are still concerned they won’t survive past 2021, new research reveals.
A recent survey by leading SME insurer Simply Business reveals that 65% of small business owners believe the successful vaccine rollout is making them feel more confident about the recovery of their business. The findings come as the easing of lockdown restrictions gets underway, which saw thousands of English businesses reopen their doors on April 12th and many more eagerly awaiting to open on May 17th.
The significance of this confidence boost is material given small businesses account for 99% of all businesses and generate a combined £2 trillion in turnover annually. It’s vital for the UK’s economic recovery that small businesses survive and thrive, but with multiple lockdowns over the past year, it’s clear the SME community is likely to feel the economic effects of the pandemic for some time.
The sustained economic hit from the pandemic, which is set to cost SME owners over £126.6bn in total, has left a quarter (24%) unsure about whether they’ll be trading next year, despite the recent re-openings.
One in five (21%) also worry they will have to permanently close their business in 2022 or later, and half (48%) still live in fear of future lockdowns given the consequences it could have on their business.
Optimism in life after lockdown
Despite the toll the pandemic has taken on small businesses, there remains hope. A quarter (25%) believe they will return to pre-pandemic levels by spring or summer 2022. Well over a tenth (14%) think faster, and predict they’ll be back to normal trading levels by the end of this year.
Furthermore, a third (35%) of SME owners overall feel optimistic about the future. While businesses have been closed or running at reduced capacity, business owners have been able to use the past year positively. Well over half (56%) have also been able to spend more time with family where possible, one in three (32%) have been able to rest, and a further third (29%) have been able to focus on themselves, as small business owners reset ahead of reopening.
Additionally, almost one in five (17%) have learnt new skills, and one in 10 (11%) have been able to adopt new digital technologies into their business.
Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business said, “The level of confidence the vaccine rollout has instilled in small business owners is encouraging, especially after such a tough year for trading. But it’s clear SMEs will be feeling the effects of the pandemic for some time. Over a year on, and despite some restrictions beginning to ease, it’s telling that half of small business owners still live in fear of future lockdowns and the fatal consequences it could have on their business.”
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and will be at the heart of our collective recovery. Behind every small business is a small business owner – with families, livelihoods and big dreams. The impact of the pandemic on so many of these individuals has been devastating, both financially and emotionally. So it’s crucial we all continue to support the small businesses in our communities as they reopen.”