COVID-19: Second business survey shows impact is widening and deepening

The second weekly Suffolk Chamber of Commerce survey into how its members are responding to the spread of the COVID-19 virus reveals a deepening and widening in the impact of the epidemic.

In response, Suffolk Chamber has repeated its call for the Government to be more ambitious in its business bailout plans.

The survey, conducted last Wednesday (17 March) over a few hours, showed that 92% of the 146 respondents were being affected by the spread of COVID-19, compared with 64% the previous week.

Of these, 35% were experiencing supply chain problems (43% the week before), 42% were facing access issues to both domestic customers (20%) and 18% were facing access issues to and overseas customers (20%).

There has also been a big jump in the number of businesses struggling with the availability of staff: up from 12% last week to 38% now.

The research shows that Suffolk Chamber members remain especially resilient in adapting their business practices to minimise issues over the very short-term, although there has been a shift in how they are doing this.

76% of Suffolk Chamber members have implemented new, more flexible working practices, up from just over half a week ago. Companies offering sick pay to staff who have to self-isolate has risen from 28% 36%, whilst those seeking out new supply chain solutions has grown from 18% to 24%. Most other tactics remain constant.

The overwhelming immediate concerns for these companies remain lost income (82% – up from 72%), possible site premises closure (38% from 30%) and possible cessation of trading (36% from 24%).
Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of communications & campaigns, said: “The time the Government has got to act in securing cashflow security for Suffolk businesses must be measured in hours and days, not weeks and months.”

“Suffolk Chamber staff are doing everything they can to directly help our members and signpost them as needed to other sources of support. However, the present needs of otherwise good and growing businesses is for massive Government action to call at least a three month moratorium on taxes which eat away at company margins in times like this: business rates, commercial rents, NI and VAT.”

Suffolk Chamber is contacting all of Suffolk’s seven MPs to press them to push the Government for this cashflow security programme.