No business, big or small, has been able to escape the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over a year of lockdowns and uncertainty in the midst of a public health emergency was always likely to take its toll. So as the vaccine rollout gathers scale and restrictions throughout the UK continue to ease gradually, many small businesses are reopening their doors to customers – but what do we know about how confident the owners of these businesses are feeling as they resume trading?
Firstly, it’s important to understand – and perhaps all too often forgotten – that behind every small business is a small business owner ‘ with a family, livelihood, and big dream. The impact of the pandemic on so many of these people has been devastating, both financially and emotionally. Our research shows that Covid-19 is set to cost UK SME owners over £126.6bn in lost earnings in total. Or over £22,000 each. Furthermore, it’s clear that the SME community will be severely affected by the pandemic’s economic impact for some time to come, with almost a quarter (24%) left feeling unsure if they’ll be trading into next year.
Why does this matter? Quite simply, because small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. SMEs account for 99 per cent of all UK businesses, provide 70% of all jobs and combined together generate an enormous £2 trillion annually. Their economic contribution cannot be overstated, and should never be taken for granted – small businesses will be at the heart of our collective recovery.
Reassuringly, the resilience and optimism for which small businesses and the self-employed are famed appears to be intact – despite the tough conditions. Our research has shown that a quarter believe their business revenues will return to pre-pandemic levels by spring or summer 2022. We’ve also found that 14% feel more optimistic and predict they will be back to normal trading levels by the end of this year.
So what’s driving these levels of confidence? 65% of small business owners believe the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout is making them feel more positive about the recovery of their business. The fact that vaccines have instilled confidence in small business owners is encouraging, especially after such a tough year.
What’s more, the last 12 months has seen many small business owners set themselves up for a positive future ‘ whether that’s by learning new skills, adopting new technologies into their business, or simply taking the time to rest and reset.
All of this being said, it’s important to hold on to a sense of perspective. The resilience for which the self-employed are renowned will only go so far. 860,000 SMEs aren’t sure that their business will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.
That’s why the next few weeks and months ‘ as the country continues to emerge from what is hopefully the worst of Covid-19 ‘ will be crucial for our small business community. For those who are only just beginning to get back to work and for those who are starting to come to terms with a new normal.
Small business will be the key to both our economy and our communities bouncing back from the pandemic. It is vital that we show SMEs the support they deserve as we enter this crucial phase of our collective recovery.