Bounce-back challenges laid bare in Hampshire Chamber survey

Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive and Executive Chairman Ross McNally, right with Chamber director Peter Taylor at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference in London on 5 March.
Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive and Executive Chairman Ross McNally, right with Chamber director Peter Taylor at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference in London on 5 March.

Seven out of ten Hampshire firms are suffering a Covid-related business downturn involving lower customer demand and cancelled work contracts.

And as we come out of lockdown, six out of ten say their biggest challenge will be restoring their lack of orders, with half forecasting continued cashflow problems.

These are among the findings of the second survey of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce members since the Covid crisis took its grip on business activity in March.

More than 170 online respondents answered 21 questions covering the take-up of state-backed support measures such as furlough, tax deferrals, grants and loans, and their general business outlook over the coming months.

Nearly six out of ten companies have furloughed at least some of their workforce, with 15% furloughing all staff.

More than four out of ten respondents have deferred their VAT bills, with substantially lower proportions being approved for business rates relief, small business grants, statutory sick pay refunds and the CBILS business interruption loan scheme.

Despite the government's package of support, a fifth of businesses say they either have no cash reserves at all or only enough to keep going for another month.

Around 22.5% of businesses say they have had to close completely for the time being because of the lack of work.

Some have put this down to customers going out of business while others report delays in receiving goods from both UK and overseas suppliers.

Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive and Executive Chairman Ross McNally said: "Our members are telling us very clearly that reduced customer demand, cashflow issues and disrupted supply chains are causing them pain now and will continue to cause them huge challenges in the months ahead.

"Our message to ministers is that businesses here in Hampshire and across the UK need sustained government support to navigate the 'new normal'.

"We welcome the extension to the furlough scheme and the balancing of its subsidy provision with the phased, gradual return to work.

"We call on the government to be flexible in their arrangements around other business support schemes too.

"It's essential we have a proper partnership between business and government so that together we can ensure the lifeline of support is not withdrawn prematurely."

In its first members' survey after lockdown, with results published in early May, Hampshire Chamber reported 57% of firms as saying they were at risk of closure or insolvency, despite state intervention. Most said the next three months would be the critical period.

 

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