UK small businesses pivot to survive COVID-19 lockdowns

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Of the 2,800 businesses surveyed, 66% of small business owners said they have applied for financial support from the government, 11% of applicants said they have not received any financial support. Photo: Getty

Small businesses in the UK said that they have had to change the direction of their organisations to survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

A year on from the start of the first official national lockdown and with the country currently slowly exiting the third one, the impact of the pandemic has been laid bare by a survey on how the events of the past year have affected small business owners.

According to research by UK-based payments provider, SumUp, 51% of small businesses have changed their operations in some way over the past year, including introducing remote payment options, gift cards and online stores.

Additionally, 5% of small businesses in the UK have "completely pivoted" their business in the last 12 months, as a consequence of the pandemic.

While 98% of small business owners said that they have been in some way affected by COVID-19, almost three quarters (71%) said they have been forced to temporarily shut during the last twelve months.

Over a fifth (22%) reported a sharp drop in sales (over a third) during the coronavirus crisis.

Of the 2,800 businesses surveyed, 66% of small business owners said they have applied for financial support from the government, 11% of applicants said they have not received any financial support. Meanwhile, 73% feel that they did not receive enough financial support to cover their losses.

On the changes, 62% of small businesses owners said they feel that offering cashless payments has helped to improve business.

It comes as a separate study by Merchant Machine. showed that coins and banknotes could disappear from the UK by 2026 as the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated "the journey to a cashless society."

New COVID-19 measures meant that retailers and shoppers across the country have been opting for card payments or and e-wallets over cash during the pandemic, to limit contact and curb transmissions of the virus. As a result, cash usage fell by 38.1% between 2000-2020, with the UK predicted to be cashless by 2026.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 10 million jobs may need to be created to tackle pandemic damage

Looking ahead, 35% of respondents feel that they need more financial support in the coming months, 10% said they need more information or education on strategies to cope, 8% said they need support in the digitisation of their business.

Or Perlman, UK country lead at SumUp, said: "Many business owners are experiencing an incredibly difficult and frustrating time, where they feel the support from their local customers is not mirrored by the government."

Perlman said that by "adapting to these difficult circumstances, which have ranged anywhere from moving the business premises to adopting an e-commerce model, introducing new safety measures, to completely changing their business" — small businesses are continuing to endure the crisis while the changes allow them to keep things ticking over, until they can fully reopen again.

WATCH: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?