New research has indicated that third of SMEs now have fewer customers, and a quarter make fewer sales as result of the pandemic with
one in four small business owners losing over an hour each day to make their business ‘Covid-secure.’

The research from small business lender, iwoca suggests that although the initial easing of restrictions has helped recovery for some SMEs, around a third are still sacrificing customer numbers with existing Covid-19 restrictions in place.

With the proposed full opening up of the UK economy on 21st June still uncertain, SME owners report that being ‘Covid-secure’ is costing them time and money with almost a quarter (24%) have spent over £1,000 to achieve this goal.

The research also reveals that over four in ten SME owners (41%) feel maintaining a ‘Covid-secure’ workplace is ‘significantly’ or ‘very significantly’ impacting how their business operates. As well as the time and cost, almost a third of small business owners are currently sacrificing customer numbers (32%), a quarter are experiencing fewer sales and just over one in four (26%) have fewer staff in the workplace.

The need for clarity around restrictions lifting is further highlighted as business owners continue to face financial concerns: around two in five small business owners (39%) worry they won’t be able to afford paying themselves a salary in the next 6 months. With just 13% worried about paying their staff salaries, this points towards the very personal sacrifices business owners are prepared to make.

This period could be even tougher for female SME owners, with 45% anticipating they’ll struggle to afford to pay themselves, compared to 37% of male business owners. And – as the first round of bounce back loan repayments fall due this month – over 4 in 10 women (41%) are concerned they might struggle to pay back these COVID loans, compared to 29% of male business owners.

Despite the price many SMEs are paying due to COVID, research shows that many are bouncing back – almost a third of SMEs (30%) are now trading more than they were pre-crisis, up from 11% in December last year. Clarity around the UK ‘reopening’ will be critical for their continued recovery.

Seema Desai, Chief Operating Officer of iwoca said “As restrictions are being eased, many small business owners are chomping at the bit to recover their full potential. It’s encouraging to see that a third are trading more than they were in pre-COVID times, and hopefully we’ll see even more businesses recover once restrictions can be fully lifted around the UK.”