The latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) conducted by St Helens Chamber shows the first statistical picture of the pressures of COVID-19 on businesses across St Helens.
The impact of COVID-19 has been dramatic, with significant numbers of St Helens businesses operating below capacity following the pandemic, and just 14% working at full capacity. Domestic UK business has reduced significantly, with 76% of firms saying that UK sales have decreased and 80% of firms reporting declines in future orders. However this picture is not completely unanimous – 7% of respondents have seen increased UK sales and 17% report that sales have remained constant.
Business confidence is low. 62% of firms now believe that their business’s turnover will worsen over the next 12 months, compared to 44% of firms who expected their turnover to increase at the end of 2019. 55% are reporting that their capital investment level is going to decrease in the next quarter, however 39% say that investment plans have not changed and will stay constant.
The future impact on jobs is obviously of significance. There has been a major reduction in the number of firms who attempted to recruit this quarter, down to 13% of the business base – at the end of 2019 this figure was 40%. Of the 20 firms who had attempted to recruit, roles were predominately for fulltime temporary staff. Looking ahead to the next quarter, 28% of firms expect their workforce to decrease in the next three months, while 65% expect it to remain constant and just 7% expect it to increase.
Tracy Mawson, Deputy Chief Executive at St Helens Chamber, said: “These results show the speed at which the economy shut down because of the pandemic. While this is a drastic fall in business overall, there is a minority of businesses increasing domestic and international sales, and recruiting locally. The huge resilience levels of St Helens firms is shown in the fact that over 45% of firms are planning to grow again over the next 12 months.
“St Helens Chamber is cautiously welcoming steps to reopen and increase capacity, but we are still a long way from business as usual. Broader national and local efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will help firms trade and support jobs and our local economy. St Helens Chamber is able to help businesses diversify and adopt digital technology.”
St Helens Chamber’s economic survey is a finger on the pulse of St Helens economy. The Chamber network is widely respected by key policy makers, and throughout the Coronavirus pandemic this voice has proved invaluable; providing much-needed data and real-life examples from businesses.
A copy of the full survey report is available at: https://www.sthelenschamber.com/about/surveys