There’s no denying that 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, and small businesses have been affected massively. More than 95% of UK businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 250 employees. They account for around 45% of total revenues and around 60% of private sector employment, so they make a large contribution to the UK economy.
The financial support packages such as the bounce back loans and the furlough scheme have allowed many companies to successfully manage cashflow in this uncertain period, but what now? How has the Covid pandemic affected business in the long term?
Since news of the vaccine broke, there’s been a lot of talk about ‘getting back to normal’, but what will the new normal actually look like?
How has coronavirus changed our spending habits, and our socialising plans? Do we still value certain industries in the same way? And, as a society, will we ever again be comfortable in crowds?
Finances and spending
Research from Statista on Covid:19 worries shows that behind health, the economic stability of the Country is the number one concern for us Brits. And that’s not surprising considering that according to the ONS, 1.69 million people were unemployed in the UK as of December 2020.
Businesses such as shops, bars, travel and entertainment companies have had to close because of coronavirus lockdowns, and despite the financial support offered by the Government, many have decided that they can’t afford to keep all their workers, and have them redundant. The number of redundancies would have been much higher if the government hadn’t spent tens of billions of pounds on these schemes to support jobs.
UK unemployment is likely to reach 2.6 million in the middle of 2021, according to the government’s economic watchdog. That is 7.5% of the working age population.
Therefore, with many people losing out on household income due to becoming either furloughed or unemployed, it’s possible people could be hesitant to make non-essential purchases in general.
With the rise of online shopping, you may think that the retail sector would be maintaining a steady income. However, research shows that during a typical shopping trip, consumers spend more in store than they do online. The same report also showed a stark increase in impulse buying when shopping in a physical store.
A recent UK survey showed that two in five people intend to carry on purchasing goods online rather than return to stores when they re-open. Could this be the end of the high street as we know it?
Working from Home
WFH may have become the most used acronym in 2020, but could it continue into 2021? The benefits of working from home have been felt by many, including:
- No commute / travel costs
- Extra time with family
- Working in comfort
From becoming accustomed to this way of working now, and seeing that they can still operate effectively, business owners in the future may be more comfortable with implementing a working-from-home policy in their business.
As a company, we have certainly seen the benefits of allowing employees a more flexible working schedule.
According to a new survey, more than half of workers (58 per cent) have reported that they have been more productive while working from home. We suspect that these new working arrangements will be carried forward and become the norm for many businesses in the future.
The rise of digital
Some industries have actually benefitted from coronavirus in a big way! Manufacturers of face masks for example? Toilet roll and hand sanitiser producers? And food delivery companies such as Deliveroo and Just Eat are revelling in our more fervent desire for takeaways. Just Eat, for example, received 151.5m orders between July and September – up from 103.6m in the same period last year!
But one business that was previously unheard of by many of us that has soared through the pandemic has got to be Zoom.
If you’ve been isolating under a rock the past 9 months, then Zoom is a video conferencing software. Use of the firm’s software jumped 30-fold in April-20, as the coronavirus pandemic forced millions to work, learn and socialise remotely.
At its peak, the firm counted more than 300 million daily participants in virtual meetings, while paying customers have more than tripled! When the firm sold its first shares to the public last year, it was valued at $15.9bn. That shot to more than $58bn in June-20.
And it’s not just Zoom that have been riding the highs of the digital acceleration.
The pandemic has been a reality check for businesses that have been reluctant to embrace digital transformation. Digitization has stepped in to bridge the gaps left by mandated shutdowns and social distancing measures. Without digital tools and technologies, we would have no way to work, shop, go to school, and more.
If there were any lingering doubts about the necessity of digital transformation to business longevity, the coronavirus has silenced them.
And what about the cleaning industry?
Covid has certainly affected every industry in some way (whether it be negatively or positively) and our industry of domestic cleaning is no exception.
A consistent theme throughout 2020 is praise for the dedication of the cleaning and hygiene operatives who have been doing vital work protecting the health and wellbeing of others and keeping key industries going since the pandemic began.
Cleaners, whilst previously viewed as a low-value profession are now being hailed as silent heroes. We think this change of attitude is long overdue!
Whilst lockdown, and the ‘stay at home’ message was a hit to the domestic cleaning industry, online searches for ‘book a cleaner’ increased massively when the UK emerged from the initial 2020 lockdown. If anything, the Covid pandemic highlighted to us all just how important regular cleaning is.
In reality, nobody can predict exactly how the effects of the covid pandemic will be felt in years to come. But as a small business, we will continue to adapt and adjust to suit the ever changing market and needs of our customers. That’s all any business can do!