SMEs look towards recovery as lockdown lifts – but clarity on reopening guidance needed

Covid-19 News | Employment & Skills | Surveys

With restrictions on some non-essential businesses lifting today, and further changes due to come into effect on 15th June, new research from Intuit QuickBooks suggests SMEs are looking towards recovery following the impact of the pandemic.

Almost three in five (57%) small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) feel confident about business activity in the next month – a significant uplift from the 46% recorded in April’s Small Business Sentiment Tracker.

Meanwhile the proportion of SMEs that have completely stopped operating has fallen from 20% in April to 13% as businesses find new ways to reach customers and lockdown starts to lift.

One in five (19%) SMEs expect overall customer activity to return to normal levels within the next month, while 14% say the same of incoming payments and cash revenue.

However, the outlook varies significantly depending on sector. SMEs in the construction, manufacturing and wholesale sectors are showing greatest signs of recovery, however, those in the hospitality and leisure industry are continuing to suffer, with more than half (51%) having stopped operating completely (see appendix, table 1).

Britain’s small businesses still need support

As Britain’s small businesses start to reopen, getting the right support remains just as crucial as when lockdown began. More than three in five (62%) SMEs require some form of additional support, with clear government guidance on how to reopen safely and minimise risk being the most common requirement (23%).

Other forms of support being drawn on by SMEs include an extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (19%) and discounts or a freeze on payments for business operations.

Nearly two in five (39%) SMEs have now applied for government support schemes, compared to 22% in April.

Chris Evans, Vice President and UK Country Manager at Intuit QuickBooks said: “Small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with many having to close or cut back on activity. The likes of cash flow, late payments, confidence and the burden of admin have all taken their toll, but we are now finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Many SMEs will be starting to turn their attention to recovery and readiness to reopen their doors. How small businesses plan to reopen will be pivotal in terms of their long-term survival.”

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