COVID-19 could cost small businesses up to £69bn

Lily Canter
·2-min read
Hundreds of thousands of small businesses were forced to close down permanently during the pandemic. Credit: Getty.
Hundreds of thousands of small businesses were forced to close down permanently during the pandemic. Credit: Getty.

The coronavirus pandemic could cost UK small businesses up to £69bn ($87.8bn) according to a survey of more than 4,000 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The research by insurer Simply Business found COVID-19 had cost the average small company £11,799 to date and 25% of firms believe they are at risk of closing in the next six months.

SMEs account for 99% of all UK businesses, and contribute a combined £2tn annually.

The coronavirus outbreak has already caused the closure of 234,000 small businesses in the UK since lockdown began in March.

Watch: Why have job losses risen despite the economy reopening?

And those that did survive were heavily reliant on borrowing cash from friends and family, with more than a third doing so, says the new report.

This may have been due to 53% struggling to access government support or understanding the eligibility criteria.

London, Scottish and north east-based SMEs were hit hardest, with businesses in the capital experiencing more than £17,000 of lost income.

Regional figures of SME loss of income during COVID-19 crisis
Regional figures of SME loss of income during COVID-19 crisis. Table: Simply Business

But along with the crisis has come innovation and one in five small businesses have adopted new technologies such as messaging apps, contactless payments and online delivery services.

The uptake of technology by SMEs during the pandemic
The uptake of technology by SMEs during the pandemic. Infographic: Simply Business

The future of SMEs presents a mixed picture with one in five firms saying they would not survive another lockdown and 62% feeling less confident about their long-term prospects.

Yet there are signs of resilience within the community, with two thirds feeling confident their business would continue or restart and 10% planning to start a brand new business.

Alan Thomas CEO of Simply Business said: “Six months since the UK lockdown was imposed, it’s telling that many small business owners live in fear of a repeat and the consequences another national lockdown would have on their business.

“The government has a clear duty to protect public health throughout the pandemic, but it’s obvious that any decisions — whether that’s on fiscal policy, further lockdowns, or future packages of financial support — will also have a huge impact on the rate of recovery for small businesses, and ultimately, the UK economy.”

Watch: What is a recession?