This fieldwork took place two months into the Covid-19 lockdown, ahead of easing.
Freestyle comments, contributed at the end of the questionnaire by almost one-third of respondents, show a few benefiting from opportunities arising due to Covid-19. The majority, however, express concern at the uncertainty about government policy and/or the infection itself, in addition to Brexit. (‘No deal’? Future of WTO?). Many, however, also reaffirm the resilient attitude in previous QES responses.
Enterprise: Three-quarters of our respondents in Q2 reported a Decrease in UK Sales and Orders; however, some 10% reported growth including a high proportion of Manufacturers.
Detailed analysis (not represented in the charts below) indicates that the smaller the business, the less likely it was to report increased UK Sales. This may be evidence that, as anecdote suggests, many of us need to keep in active contact with a network if we’re to remain effective while in physical isolation.
Exporters similar to UK business. Some 70% reported Decrease in Export Sales and Export Orders. Only one-tenth as many reported Increase. Meanwhile, 40% of respondents continued exporting despite (a) some overseas customers switching to non-UK suppliers in expectation of a ‘no deal’ Brexit and (b) Covid-19.
Resilience for a whole year now more respondents have reported worsening rather than improving Cashflow. In Q2 this worsening proportion doubled, from 33% to 65%, despite government mitigation aid for Covid-19, which some respondents were unable to access. Some respondents didn’t expect to reopen after lockdown.
Confidence, meanwhile, was mixed: about 25% expected higher Sales t/o and Profits in the coming 12 months, though more than 50% expect both to be lower.
Some had fared well in lockdown, and 1 in 4 tried to hire but came up against skill shortages, especially Professional/ managerial. Vacancies for Permanent staff were down by comparison with previous Quarters.
As usual in uncertain times, Investment in Training was more popular than Investment in Kit (more flexible to use).
Overall, the picture is one of disruption leading to change as businesses struggle to understand the direction of travel, and to guess how bad the fallout will be from Covid-19. Some express frustration at a lack of clarity in government policy, especially on mitigation funding. Nevertheless, Kent is adapting.
See the full report here