Chamber survey shows impact of Covid isolation rules on small businesses

Over half of respondents have had to close or reduce hours

More than 52% of customer-facing businesses that took part in a Chamber of Commerce survey say they have had to close, or reduce hours, due to the latest Covid situation causing staff shortages.

Businesses that play an important role in the local economy are also being affected by significant drops in customer footfall. The combined impact of those factors is so severe that over 67% of businesses that responded (141 out of 208) now want to see Covid restrictions lifted. The survey was carried out by the Island’s biggest business network in order to see how customer-facing businesses are coping, and to assess the impact of last month’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) decision to extend financial support via the Winter Disruption Scheme.

Chamber carries out regular polls to gather feedback from across the business community. The latest one prompted the biggest ever response to a survey of customer-facing companies. It covered 10 different sectors. The results revealed the current level of negative impact of Covid restrictions, and the strength of feeling among businesses across the sector. 

Here are the other headlines from the survey:

·        When asked if they had to close or reduce hours due to staff shortages, just under 16% had to close, and just over 36% had to reduce hours.

·        Over 62% of respondents have seen a drop in sales of at least 25%, and over 17% saw sales drop by more than 50% (those figures are based on a comparison with sales in the same period in 2020).

·        There are mixed views on how business owners think their customers would feel about all current Covid testing/isolation rules being lifted. 88 out of the 208 (42%) who answered this question said they felt customers would be happy to see rules lifted; 54 (25%) said that customers wouldn’t be OK with that; and there were 66 ‘don’t knows’. 

Chamber CEO Rebecca George thanked all the businesses that took part, and commented: “The survey provided some really important and interesting feedback which was fed directly to the Economic Recovery Group for consideration. This work has gone a long way towards assisting Government’s decision to widen the sectors that are eligible for funding. A new isolation payment has also been launched to provide more financial support to people.  Customer-facing businesses have started to question whether the rules regarding LFT reporting can be relaxed a little to help business owners and their customers. We are delighted that so many took the time to share data from over 180 micro-businesses – this meant we could share that data with ERG the same day, and we know they took it into account when reviewing the Winter Disruption Scheme. Chamber will continue to make sure that the concerns of small businesses are addressed, including ongoing activity via our Local Economy Forum.”

You can find the Local Economy Forum on Facebook, or click here to find out more. 

The customer-facing business survey was carried out from January 4th to 6th with responses from a total of 226 businesses across a wide range within the sector, including hair/beauty, motor trade, gyms/fitness, pet care, hospitality, retail, and food and drink businesses. The full survey results are here:

[Closure graphic]: A graphic from the Chamber survey showing responses to the question ‘Have you had to close or reduce hours in your business due to staff shortages?’

[Rebecca George]: Rebecca George, CEO, Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce.

[IoMCoC logo]: The Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce logo.