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The impact of COVID on Gloucestershire based businesses

As the year draws to a close, its fair to say that 2020 has been one to remember, or quickly forget, for a whole host of reasons.

COVID forced businesses to adapt quickly.  Working remotely, introducing different processes, dealing with fluid supply chains and managing a workforce who were now operating in far from normal circumstances. Years of change was forced into a matter of months.

Some businesses struggled to make the changes required often through no fault of their own with retail, hospitality and leisure being particularly badly hit.  The entering into administration of large and longstanding retail chains such as Arcadia and Debenhams, albeit struggling before COVID, bears witness to the difficulties faced, particularly for those who may have been slow to embrace online retail. Hospitality and leisure were hard hit with enforced closures, restrictions on single household groups and limits on alcohol sales effectively pulling the rug from under them.

However, there have been success stories.  Businesses which have managed to succeed despite the odds, either through strategy, luck or a combination of the two.  Data specialists, Beauhurst, track high growth businesses and have been looking at the impact of COVID throughout the UK.  In their COVID-19 Business Impact report published in October 2020, they reported over half of high-growth  businesses in the UK were now classed as back up and running with COVID playing a ‘low impact’ as opposed to April figures which showed 53% of high growth businesses in an ‘at risk’ category.

In Gloucestershire, 70 businesses are currently reported by Beauhurst as experiencing a surge in demand or creating job opportunities.  Almost half of these (47%) are established businesses (likely to be 15+ years old and with a stronger financial background) but nearly a quarter are seed companies starting their journey and likely with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Interestingly, of the Gloucestershire based businesses performing well during COVID, nearly three quarters of them are in three key sectors: Business and Professional Services, Industrial (including manufacturing) and Technology/IP. 

Looking at all Gloucestershire firms tracked by Beauhurst, the figures certainly show a more positive story for the region than one might expect.  Back in April, 41% of businesses were categorised as having a low or positive impact from COVID meaning they were able to continue operating largely as normal or that operations had increased (or had potential to).  20% of tracked businesses at this time were perceived to impacted in a severe or critical way.  The latest figures from December 2020 show a much more positive climate with 73% of tracked businesses operating largely as normal (or stronger than before) and only 3.7% defined as severely or critically impacted as a result of the pandemic.

The vaccination programme starting this week is a huge step forward for many businesses in terms of their employees and the knock-on effect this could have in relation to production or processes if social distancing guidelines are able to be eased. Even at this early stage the moral boost effect of the news should not be underestimated.

Whilst we may not be out of the woods quite yet, there are positive signs that businesses are fighting back and indeed adopting processes and technologies which will allow them to develop and maintain a competitive edge beyond COVID. Just one final word of caution for the immediate future however…. Brexit!

For more information, reports and insights on businesses in the UK visit www.beauhurst.com.  To get support and advice to help make your business more resilient, contact Dale Williams (dale.williams@bpe.co.uk or 01242 248234) or visit www.bpe.co.uk.

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