Most businesses across the Highlands and islands are remaining confident in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
That’s the conclusion of a Business Panel survey which was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and carried out in June. This wave of the survey focused on impacts of and responses to the pandemic.
Charlotte Wright, chief executive of HIE, said: “We particularly welcome the confidence that many firms have in their own future and that they expect to have the resources they need to get through the crisis. This is typical of the prevailing can-do optimistic attitude of so many in the region; qualities that will be vital in rebuilding the economy.”
Of those surveyed, 75% believed their businesses will still be viable in six months’ time. More than two thirds (70%) had applied for support and 91% of those had received assistance.
Most businesses (71%) said they were confident they can access the financial resources they need to get through the crisis and 87% were confident they’d be able to adhere to government guidelines when emerging from lockdown.
At the time of the survey, 72% had already taken appropriate safety measures. Other measures taken included changes to workplace layout (38%), staff training (35%), reviewing staff requirements (31%) and enabling staff to work from home (37%).
Disruption to trade, decline in sales, loss of income, and furloughed employees were reported as some of the main impacts of covid-19. Overall, 85% reported they had experienced a decline (61%) or no sales at all (24%), while a very small proportion (4%) reported an increase in trade.
Nearly half (49%) of firms had been able to continue operating throughout the lockdown and a further 12% had reopened after closing initially.
Businesses that continued trading did things differently in order to do so. Making processes more efficient (50%), exploring new domestic/UK markets (48%) and improving competitiveness (44%) were the most frequently reported actions taken.
Others include collaboration, changing products or services and moving products and services online.
Of those who continued or had restarted trading, 65% said business was below the pre-covid level, 26% much the same and 8% above.
Looking ahead, firms reported both concerns and potential opportunities.
The main concerns for the next six months were economic downturn (61%), future waves of coronavirus and lockdown (55%), and sustainability of the business (25%).
Reported opportunities centred around adapting products or services (26%), changing customer behaviour or preferences (26%) and growing an online presence (26%). Others include targeting new markets (25%), using technology differently (22%), and repositioning the business (15%).
HIE’s Business Panel Survey reports are available online at hie.co.uk/research-and-reports. The next wave of the survey is due to take place in October.