Life after 21 June SMEs bounce back but concerns remain

New research suggests that even though the nation will meet the ending of social restrictions with excitement and optimism, many small business owners remain alert to potential economic disruption that may still lie ahead.

The top concerns for small business owners are dominated by three macro-economic factors – the direct impact of COVID on their operations (47%), general market uncertainty (39%) and the economic impact of Brexit on their business (27%).

Who is most worried most about COVID?

Smaller companies in hospitality/leisure (70%), retail (58%), education (58%) and medical services (49%) were most likely to be concerned about COVID having a long tail in terms of economic impact.

Regionally, small businesses in the North East (57%) and the East Midlands (52%) were those most concerned about the legacy of COVID continuing to adversely impact their business operations.

Who is most worried about Brexit?

Small business owners in Wales (33%) and Scotland (32%) were those most concerned about the economic impact of Brexit on their business – places where worries about the commercial impact of COVID were significantly lower (42% and 43% respectively).

Whilst we all look forward to a summer of optimism, our survey shows that many business owners are conscious that there would still be long-term implications from both the pandemic and Brexit. After repeated lockdowns in the last year, small business owners are being pragmatic. There is a record quarter-on-quarter upturn in the proportion of small businesses predicting growth, but this is not blind optimism: Business owners have their eyes wide open to the risks that lie ahead and, in today’s market, this has become an essential part of robust business planning.