Survey reveals that businesses are fighting back but more flexibility needed from government and lenders

The eleventh weekly Suffolk Chamber of Commerce survey into how its members are responding to the spread of the COVID-19 virus shows a growing number are both adapting to their new trading environments, whilst others are actively planning to restart or expand their operations in the immediate future.

The key findings of the survey are:

  • 75% firms are working flexibly
  • 33% of businesses are looking at alternative supply chains
  • 41% of the firms who responded are planning on re-opening their business with additional safety measures – an increase of 16% from last week
  • 40% of firms are now communicating with their customers and suppliers in the actions that they are taking, up by 4% from last week
  • 15% of businesses are positively affected by the spread of C19, up by 8% from last week
  • 49% of firms will not require any notice to re-open their business and 24% of firms say the will require one to three weeks’ notice

Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of communications & campaigns said: “These figures show just how resilient and determined our members are in carrying on trading through some of the most turbulent conditions imaginable.

“This week’s survey data suggests that many Suffolk Chamber businesses are successfully adapting their commercial models to the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are doing things totally differently, whilst others are looking to re-open their factories and offices very soon whilst ensuring the safety of their customers and staff.

“The whole of our county should be very proud of these business owners.”

Many businesses are currently conducting risk assessments to ensure that social distancing and onsite hygiene can be effectively observed.

Suffolk Chamber’s Chamber Protection service now offers a free service to assist members in this process, including:

  • A dedicated helpline for any questions, concerns and queries you may have
  • Template COVID-19 risk assessment forms
  • Guidance for businesses to help them return to work

However, the same survey also showed that some of the mechanisms put in place by the Government and financial lenders are proving difficult to access, including:

·         17% of firms have tried to access a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, of which 24% have been unsuccessful

·         24% of businesses have taken out the Bounce Back Loan, with 57% of those have been successful

         40% of firms have found the process of applying for the schemes very easy

Comments on this topic include: “The Government announces grants to help business then takes weeks for it to be implemented”.

Koyas Miah, Suffolk Chamber’s Trade Business Adviser said: “It’s clear that there are still some issues with getting short-term cash into the accounts of eligible firms and this needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

“In addition, many businesses are asking for more immediate flexibility regarding the furloughing of their staff. As the recovery begins, many are looking for the option of part time furloughing sooner than August as announced by the government. We will be raising these ‘asks’ in our meetings with local MPs and in lobbying the Government.”

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