1 in 7 UK Businesses Not Confident in Surviving Next 3 Months: ONS Survey

November 19, 2020 Updated: November 19, 2020

One in seven businesses and one in three hospitality businesses in the UK have no or low confidence that they will survive the next three months, according to the latest official survey data.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday published the results of its latest biweekly business survey for the period between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1, finding just under 82 percent of all businesses were trading, 16.5 percent were temporarily closed or had paused trading, and 2 percent had closed permanently.

This represented a slight fall in the percentage of businesses trading, from a peak of 86 percent in early September, to levels seen in the summer.

Accommodation and food service businesses were affected the most out of all industries, with only 63.2 percent trading at the time. This sector also had the greatest proportion of businesses having no to low confidence in surviving the next 3 months, at around one in three (33.8 percent).

Cash reserves were also a problem for accommodation and food service businesses, with 44 percent reporting they had between zero and three months’ cash reserves, with 29 percent of all businesses overall being in the same position.

“Conversely, the education industry (private sector and higher education businesses only) and the information and communication industry had the highest percentages of businesses that had cash reserves that would last more than six months, at 49 percent and 45 percent respectively,” the ONS reported.

Almost half (49.5 percent) of all businesses saw a decrease in their turnover, a sharp rise from the previous two weeks (44.9 percent). Among accommodation and food service businesses, the number was as high as 79.2 percent, and arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses had the second highest rate at 71.5 percent.

The wholesale and retail sector had the largest proportion of businesses that saw a rise in turnover, at 15 percent.

Profit also dropped for 46.5 percent of all businesses, with the accommodation and food service (72.5 percent) and arts, entertainment, and recreation (62.6 percent) sectors the hardest hit.

ONS graph
(ONS)

Nine percent of workers remained on furlough, with the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry having one in three (33.6 percent) workers fully or partly furloughed, the highest percentage among all industries. Accommodation and food service activities businesses came in second, with 21.9 percent of its workforce on full or partial furlough.

Among the 38,760 businesses surveyed between Nov. 2 and Nov. 15, over a quarter (10,377) responded. The questions referred to the period between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1, two weeks prior to the data collection period, but some businesses may have responded based on the current circumstances at the time of responding.

This may have an impact on the results, because the devolved nations ramped up their restriction measures between the end of October and the beginning of November amid a surge in the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

England entered a four-week national lockdown from Nov. 5; Scotland started a 5-tiered system on Nov. 2; Wales imposed a 17-day “firebreak” lockdown from Oct. 23 to Nov. 9; and Northern Ireland went into a four-week national lockdown from Oct. 16.