Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Beardsley. (Photo: Greater Lincolnshire LEP)

First picture of how COVID-19 has affected local businesses

Lincolnshire businesses took ‘an extraordinary hit’ because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the county’s Chamber of Commerce has said.

It today (Wednesday) released its survey results of local businesses in quarter two of the year covering April, May and June.

The survey for Q2 2020 found that businesses reported a decline in UK sales activity, from a balance of +8 to -53 (noting here that a balance above 0 signifies growth with negative balances indicating a contraction in activity), while a fall in overseas sales was reported from +4 to -50.

Orders also took a hit with UK orders falling from +6 to -48 and for exporters the decline reported was from 0 to -37.

Staffing levels have undoubtably seen a similar decline, with recruitment activity over the last three months fallen from +12 to -26.

And the Chamber has warned that despite lockdown restrictions being eased, there could be more difficulty ahead.

A spokesman said: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CRJS) has been the lifeline of businesses across Lincolnshire and beyond, however with the phasing out of the scheme in Q3, the survey shows that businesses are expecting to make more reductions in staff in the coming three months.

“All other key indicators were understandably down compared with Q1, the only real positive we have seen is the decrease in price pressures from falls in demand and supply, and oil prices.”

Simon Beardsley, chief executive of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “These results have come as no surprise, although national figures published over the last few weeks have shown what has happened to the economy generally, these findings give the first comparison and evidence of the impact that the pandemic has had on businesses across Lincolnshire.

“It is and has been an unprecedented situation in both scale and impact, businesses across Lincolnshire stopped or dramatically reduced their activity, with some still waiting the go ahead to reopen.

“We know there is a long way to go before the economy can fully recover from the impact of the pandemic, but what businesses need now is some focussed support to aid their staff back into the workplace, adapting operations and returning to pre-lockdown business activity and economic performance.

“It is important we now look to the future, notice the opportunities to grow and thrive in the new normal, adapting and streamlining processes and procedures, taking a different approach to how we do things, meaning supporting businesses to innovate, build their resilience and aiding that growth mindset must be seen as a central focus of the Government’s policy response as we start to navigate the new normal.”

Councillor Colin Davie, executive councillor for economy and place at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The last few months have been incredibly difficult for our local businesses, and will continue to be for some time to come.

“Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the economy and on growth locally, just as it has nationally. 

“The latest data shows just how hard our businesses have been hit, and that we will need to ensure support continues to be available for as long as it is needed. 

“We have done a great deal to help. The services that we commission have provided one-to-one advice to around 600 businesses.

“This has included help to diversify or to provide services differently so they can keep operating in the toughest of trading environments. 

“The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has kept many businesses afloat and councils have allocated more than £200m of grants in Lincolnshire.

“We have also worked with organisations like the Chamber of Commerce, banks and accountants, who have all run online webinars and support.

“As we enter the next phase of more business re-opening in rapidly changing circumstances, support continues to be available focused on the particular challenges that different sectors are facing.

“The coming months will undoubtedly remain challenging, so our focus is on helping businesses become as resilient as possible for the future.”

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