One in three small businesses say they might never reopen after lockdown

ONE in three small business owners who have been forced to close their companies because of the coronavirus pandemic say they may never reopen.

Firms have struggled to pay their rent and have had to shelve expansion plans, according to a survey carried out by the Federation of Small Business (FSB).

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Of the 5,000 companies surveyed, four in ten said they had been forced to close since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and of those, 35 per cent were not sure whether they would ever reopen again.

A quarter of the companies were struggling to pay their rent or mortgage on their premises.

And similar number had been forced to shelve product development plans.

Many firms had accessed help provided by the government, including the job retention scheme, which allows employers to furlough members of staff with 80 per cent of their wages.

Around 70 per cent of bosses surveyed by the FSB had furloughed staff to help their businesses survive.

But many said they were concerned about the process of returning to work.

The government suggested this week that anyone who cannot work from home should consider going back in.

Businesses that must remain closed

WHILE the Government is encouraging some to return to work, it says the following businesses and venues are required by law to stay closed to the public:

  • Restaurants and cafes, other than for takeaway
  • Pubs, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs
  • Clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets not selling food
  • Libraries, community centres, and youth centres
  • Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, gyms, arcades and soft play facilities – although outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and bowling greens, will be allowed to reopen from May 13
  • Some communal places within parks, such as playgrounds and outdoor gyms
  • Places of worship (except for funerals)
  • Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use, excluding use by those who live in them permanently, those who are unable to return home and critical workers where they need to for work

Food retailers, food markets, and hardware stores can remain open, while garden centres and certain other retailers can reopen from May 13.

But three quarters of the businesses who had already furloughed staff said they were keen to partially furlough workers in the future so that people could come back part time.

And half said they would like to bring employees back gradually.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB, said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt right across the small business community, with thousands of small firms all over the UK fearing for their futures.”

He praised the government for “stepping up” with help in the form of the job retention scheme, cash grants and business rate breaks.

But he said: “Policymakers now need to realise that the economy will not go from zero to a hundred overnight once we’re into the recovery phase. 

“The crucial support that’s on offer needs to be kept under review, and adapted to reflect the new normal as we chart a course back to economic recovery.”


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Close to one in ten business owners have applied for Universal Credit since the lockdown began.

But almost a third of those have had their applications rejected, the survey revealed.

Many have also been locked out of the government’s scheme to help self-employed people, because they are directors of limited companies.

This means they do not qualify under the scheme.

Mr Cherry added: “Policymakers need to be in listening mode and prepared to help the most vulnerable over the challenging months ahead. 

“No one should be left behind.”

Small businesses can apply for grants of up to £25,000 to help cover trading losses due to coronavirus.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday that the furlough scheme would be extended until October.

Construction and food production workers are among those who have been told they can return to work.

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