Understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Somerset businesses

The results of a large county-wide survey about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local businesses will be used to shape Somerset’s response and economic recovery planning.

Conducted by Somerset’s five local authorities between July 24 and August 21 this year, the survey provides vital intelligence on how more than 1,300 businesses have been coping in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as giving insight into their prospects for the future.

Somerset County Council and the district councils have already put in place a number of services to directly support businesses and individuals affected by Covid-19 including Step Up Somerset, a website which signposts business and individuals for redundancy support, and the Visitor Economy Support Programme, which will help businesses improve their online offer and digital skills.

Like much of the country, Somerset’s businesses have been facing significant challenges as they adapt to new ways of working, but despite the uncertainty about what the near future holds, optimism remains.

Of those who took part in the survey, 32.7 per cent of businesses described the current outlook for their business as ‘fairly positive’, compared to 22.3 per cent describing it as ‘fairly negative’.

By 2022, 66.4 per cent anticipate their business will be stronger or about the same, suggesting confidence in their underlying fundamentals despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 situation.

High up on the list of challenges reported by businesses was a lack of cash flow, difficulties adhering to social distancing restrictions, and confusion about official government guidance since the start of the national lockdown in March.

Other challenges highlighted included poor digital connectivity and skills as home working increased, the sourcing of PPE, and maintaining staffing levels due to sickness or isolation.

The survey also found that with business activity being significantly curtailed across most industries – especially hospitality, food business and non-supermarket retail – business turnover and profitability has been hit hard.

Almost half of businesses reported achieving less than half their normal turnover since the start of lockdown.

The survey findings are being used to support the response and recovery work of Somerset’s local authorities, including the provision of support to those who have made or are planning to make redundancies, as well as the wider provision of employment, skills and training support to help people secure work, up-skill or retrain.

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For further information, please contact the Communications Teams from any of the Somerset Local Authorities.