The long awaited ‘Freedom Day’ was set to signal the end of the Covid-19 pandemic with almost all remaining Covid restrictions lifted.
The long awaited ‘Freedom Day’ was set to signal the end of the Covid-19 pandemic with almost all remaining Covid restrictions lifted. Pubs and bars can operate at full capacity, and nightclubs are opening their doors for the first time in 16 months. Yet with Covid cases still high, small business owners are welcoming the return of old customers while dealing with new headaches.
It's no wonder that small business owners are feeling uneasy. Not only is there ongoing uncertainty at what lies ahead, but SMEs are now having to make calls on how to operate their businesses safely for their employees and customers.
Our research shows that over half (53%) of SMEs believe social distancing restrictions are being lifted too soon, risking yet another lockdown. The concern is so great that almost one in three (30%) small business owners have decided to continue operating at a reduced capacity and with social distancing measures still in place.
And one of the biggest questions facing SMEs is whether the responsibility of unlocking should sit with businesses or individuals. In fact, almost half (47%) of small business owners think that this should be shared, rather than placing the onus on personal responsibility.
But we're also seeing strong calls for clearer guidance from the government, with just under a third (29%) of SMEs wanting more support to help them reopen safely. This should come as no surprise – SMEs aren’t public health experts and we can't expect them to gauge the threat of a disease.
And why does this matter? We know that each SME in this country can expect to see an average loss of £22,461. That amounts to a total of £127bn, leaving a gaping hole in the books of small businesses across the country. If the government's plan for unlocking doesn't work, it could mean another lockdown – a move that could have dire consequences for a sector that's been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic.
We’ve witnessed the resilience of SMEs throughout the pandemic. But with their livelihoods on the line yet again, business owners will understandably remain cautious for the time being.
At Simply Business, we felt compelled to do something to help small businesses get back on their feet. Now in its second year, our Business Boost grant will see us give away £25,000 to one small business owner so they can grow or revive their business. Entries for our Business Boost grant are now open, and a panel of expert judges – including Dragons Den's Piers Linney and The Apprentice winner Carina Lepore – will select the winner. Entries close on September 17, and we look forward to helping one owner get back to business after Covid-19.