In a recent survey of 350 small businesses across the county of Sussex results have shown that 58% have seen a reduction of over 50% of their income as a direct result of COVID-19, with a shocking 26% experiencing a decline of over 90%.

The survey was created through a partnership with local coworking providers Rume2 & Freedom Works, in partnership with WSCC & Coast2Capital and supported by multiple business support & networking groups & additional coworking providers across the region.
This widely supported initiative enabled 350 businesses (of which 90% have been operating for over a year) to share their experiences and has highlighted the huge challenges being faced and the large gaps in support being felt by the majority of small business owners.
The impact on revenue has been due to widespread client cancellation (74%) client inability to pay (38%) and 44% of businesses simply unable to deliver their services during lockdown.
“The knock on effect of the lockdown has reverberated through the Sussex business community on every level. Sussex is known for its concentration of entrepreneurial micro & small businesses and to hear from the horses mouth just how many of those businesses is effected, no matter what industry is worrying.”
Rosie Freshwater – Rume2

With the plethora of government support being launched over recent weeks the Survey set out to understand how much of that support was reaching grass roots businesses within the region. The results showed that very little support had been accessed by the businesses across multiple sectors.
Only 13% of small businesses had been able to access the Small Business Grant Fund as many are working in shared workspaces or as remote teams.
67% of small businesses are being run as LTD companies and therefore have not been able to access any of the self-employed grants. In addition, as 84% had less than 5 employees the Job Retention Scheme has been limited in use with only 25% of businesses taking this up.

This shows there are a wide number of businesses in the region where the only support option is that of the CBIL loan scheme. There is a real reticence from local business to get into further debt in these uncertain times and the difficulty for others of getting bank approval is highlighted by only 5% of respondents receiving these loans so far and only a further 8% planning to.

“As a matter of urgency ,our Government needs to prioritise the clarity of its communications on how to access the financial support made available to all business but in particular the SME sector which is the true backbone of the British economy.”
Fiona Shafer – MDHub

The general outlook for small business in Sussex is looking bleak with 19% stating they were unlikely to survive this year and a further 24% neither likely nor unlikely to survive. Worryingly if those businesses fail only 16% of business owners said they would start up their business again. This would be a huge blow to the business ecosystem in the area.

“We know from our members that many fall within the gaps of the current support on offer from the government and some are really struggling. Whilst those creative freelancers that in the short-term will benefit from the self-employment grant, in the long-term will face significant challenges as they are reliant on small/medium enterprises for work. The lack of long-term support at every level simply delays the impact on these creative professionals and weakens the creative industry as a whole.”
Julia Grant – Design Collective Chichester

With the limited number of small businesses receiving government support perhaps it is no surprise that 63% stated the main support needed to survive the coming months is cash. However, rather than large amounts due to the size of so many businesses they required relatively little amounts to survive with over 60% needing less than £15,000.
27% of businesses stated they required support with sales and marketing showing the impact of loss of clients as businesses have even more of a focus on acquiring new customers.

"This survey really shows the plight amongst the grassroots economy in Sussex.  Support is needed, but this is not just on funding or grants.  The business community needs to support each other to help us rebuild.  We have already seen how collaboration is enabling businesses to adapt during lockdown, but now more than ever we really need the business community to support each other by ensuring any spend is kept within the local economy."
Jon Trigg – Freedom Works

The results of the survey are now being used by Coast 2 Capital & West Sussex County Council to Lobby the government directly for more support in the places it is needed.

Please contact [email protected] for further details or comment

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Businesses & Groups involved in the facilitation of the survey were as follows:
  • Rume2
  • Freedom Works
  • Platf9rm
  • FreshMill
  • WSCC
  • CDC
  • Coast 2 Capital
  • Brighton Chamber of Commerce
  • Worthing & Adur Chamber of Commerce
  • Chichester Chamber of Commerce
  • Federation of Small Business
  • MDHub
  • Design Collective Chichester
  • Last Friday Club
  • Gatwick Diamond Business Group
  • BNI Sussex

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