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Majority of UK firms face cash flow crisis

Almost of half businesses expect to furlough at least 50% of workforce in the next week

Results from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) first Covid-19 Business Impact Tracker paints a concerning, if unsurprising, picture for business communities affected by Coronavirus.

The BCC’s new tracker will serve as a barometer of business’ response to the government’s measures and changes to business’ working practices over the next few months. It will also track how quickly new government interventions, introduced to deal with the real-world impact of this crisis, are getting to the businesses at the front line.

The first set of polling was conducted from 25-27 March with responses from over 600 businesses. It revealed that a majority of firms reported a significant decrease in their revenue from both the UK and overseas.

Cash flow concerns

Of most concern is the impact on business’s cash flow, an important indicator of overall economic health. 18 per cent reported less than a month’s worth of cash in reserve, while 44 per cent reported only 1 to 3 months’ worth of cash in reserve. Only 6 per cent of respondents reported over 12 months’ worth of cash in reserve.

Businesses furloughing employees

Following the government’s pledge to cover 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s salary up to £2,500 a month, 32 per cent of respondents said that they were planning to furlough between 75 to 100 per cent of their workforce over the next week. More than a quarter of firms (26 per cent) were not due to use the scheme in the next week.

Changing work practices

A majority of businesses have embraced the changes in working culture, with two thirds of respondents (66 per cent) using remote working and half (50 per cent) using videoconferencing.

However, 18 per cent of businesses had closed operations temporarily and, although no respondents had yet closed business operations permanently, both figures are expected to rise over the coming weeks and months.

Tourism businesses operating at half capacity

Awareness of government support schemes

Encouragingly, most businesses reported awareness of the government’s recent support schemes to help mitigate the impact of coronavirus.

  • 61 per cent of firms knew details of the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector
  • 59 per cent of firms knew details of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • 57 per cent of firms knew details of the Statutory Sick Pay refund

The percentage of firms actively in receipt of this support was low but this is expected to rise in the coming weeks following the government’s official launch of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and Job Retention Scheme on Monday 23 March.

Responding to the tracker results, South Wales Chamber of Commerce CEO Heather Myers said:

“It is of course expected but worrying that the majority of firms spoken to reported a significant decrease in their revenue from both the UK and overseas.  These are trying times for businesses across Wales and the rest of the UK, and support from both the UK and Welsh Government’s must reach every single business, as quickly as possible.

“We’re seeing such great evidence in Wales of businesses coming together with offers of support, and for that we are very proud. We must continue to make sure businesses have all the information they need, when they need it, and that they aren’t feeling alone. We’re encouraging all business in Wales, whether they are Chamber members or not, to visit our newly launched Coronavirus Hub, where we will be doing everything we can to keep each and every Welsh businesses afloat by signposting them to the support they desperately need.”