Covid-19: Yorkshire’s Small Businesses Count Cost of Pandemic Crisis
Small businesses are the engine room of the UK economy – with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) accounting for 99.3% of all business nationwide. Yorkshire is home to some of the most innovative and successful of those. And many more besides. But none, unfortunately, are being spared from the dramatic and damaging impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Unlike larger corporations who have the resources to navigate the current crisis, small business owners must cope with challenges and difficult decisions not seen for some time. As restrictions start to ease, it’s a sign to many that we may be steering away from the worst of the crisis. But that isn’t the case for many SMEs. In fact, the “new normal” could be just as devastating.
Yorkshire business: the current climate
On the face of it, there are some early signs that Yorkshire’s small businesses are reporting the first green shoots of recovery. After a frantic and deeply worrying three months of limited or no trading at all, research suggests that revenue increased 11% month-on-month in June. What it doesn’t do, however, is come close to anything near enough to cover the year-on-year losses.
And, of course, that only applies to those SMEs who can start back up or who are seeing higher footfall for the first time since March. There are still plenty of smaller businesses for whom that isn’t the reality. Even with all the support the government is currently providing, initiatives like the furlough scheme are coming to an end in the months ahead.
Making help available for business owners
It’s important for SMEs to be aware that support is still available, however. Extra funding worth £20m has been made available by the government to complement the financial support already out there for business owners. There are also many specialist providers of small business loans – some with an existing and in-depth knowledge of SME finance – who businesses can turn to.
In addition, there are a range of companies across different sectors who have support on offer. From tech giants such as Google to telecoms experts including BT, some larger enterprises are looking to lend the benefit of their expertise to those Yorkshire SMEs in greatest need. And the support can help with anything from getting a business online to effective marketing.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
The hope is that Yorkshire, along with the rest of the UK, is on the right track to containing the coronavirus once and for all. The fears, however, are that a second wave will reverse whatever recovery is made and that the end of existing support schemes is simply kicking the can further down the road. And it means that prospects for SME owners across Yorkshire are no clearer.
The news that some parts of Yorkshire are now facing new restrictions due to a spike in Covid-19 cases is just what business owners didn’t need – especially just weeks after reopening their doors. How long this period might last for is not yet known. What other areas of Yorkshire may be next is uncertain too. And it all adds up to prolonging the fear and anxiety for our SMEs.