Businesses didn’t get the news that they hoped for back in June, when the government was forced to delay the end of restrictions by potentially another four weeks.
While delays to the roadmap are understandably unnerving, we must keep the bigger picture in focus. One that is getting a lot more positive.
Economic indicators are encouraging. The CBI is now predicting that the UK economy will return to pre-Covid levels by the end of this year, much sooner than expected.
In the shorter term, more of course must be done to support struggling businesses through this tough time and beyond. Keeping business rate pressure off for a longer period and making the new government lending scheme more accessible, by lowering the amounts that can be borrowed, are just some of the things that could help.
We need to make sure we help business owners in other ways too, to give them a softer landing from this crisis. It has been a long, old, tricky time for many. A lot of people feel burned out post-lockdown. We need to inspire confidence and ensure businesses can draw upon help and advice for this next stretch; everything from problem-solving, strategic adaptations and making sure they have the right mental health support.
Public support for small firms also cannot be understated as part of this. This is something that has certainly grown during the pandemic, as people recognised the enormous contribution small businesses make to our communities and returned that loyalty by supporting them more and more.
Indeed, new research commissioned by American Express and Small Business Saturday found that almost half (46%) of small businesses have seen a rise in new customers purchasing from their business over the past six months, providing a much-needed boost.
This increased sense of consumer backing has been keenly felt by small businesses, with almost 7 in 10 (69%) saying they have felt supported by customers in the local community over the past 12 months. Respondents stated that this support went beyond simply providing custom, to include smaller acts of kindness like recommending businesses to friends and family.
Moreover, a further 69% of small businesses said they believe a greater sense of community spirit has developed among the small businesses owners themselves in their local area throughout the last year.
The delay to restrictions lifting is hopefully just a bump in the road out of this crisis. There will undoubtedly be more hurdles along the way as society continues to change, adapt, and respond to the ongoing challenges of this pandemic.
Businesses are understandably craving certainty, which is an elusive thing at the best of times. However, in the absence of this, we must try a little faith.
Faith in winning science and innovation to help society manage and overcome this crisis. Faith in ourselves – to carry on, even when the path ahead isn’t clear. And faith in our communities and those around us, to continue to support and value each other.
The 4th July offered a moment to unite together on this, as the nation celebrated its very first national ‘Thank You’ day.
This gave an opportunity to express gratitude to those who have made a difference to our lives during this challenging period – from NHS workers, to our neighbours and, of course, small businesses.
The relationship that has developed between small businesses and their communities during pandemic is a special one. It is important we celebrate, remember, and cherish it for the long term. A theme that will be at the heart of this year’s Small Business Saturday ‘ (another important date on 4 December).
It is also important that public support for local businesses and entrepreneurs continues, and grows, throughout the summer to ensure the small business led recovery we hope to see.