A NEW study by the Federation of Small Businesses shows that four in ten (41 per cent) of small businesses have been forced to close since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. Of those that have closed, more than a third (35 per cent) are unsure whether they will ever reopen again.

For those small businesses paying a mortgage or lease on their premises, more than a quarter (28 per cent) have failed to make, or have faced severe difficulties in making, rent or mortgage repayments as a result of the pandemic’s economic impacts.

A similar proportion (25 per cent) have had to shelve product development plans, while a fifth (21 per cent) of exporters say they have had to either reduce or cancel international sales.

In response to the strain being placed on them, more than a third (37 per cent) of small employers are considering, or have already made, redundancies.

On a positive note, more than two-thirds (71 per cent) of small employers have furloughed staff to aid the survival of their business. This illustrates the extent to which the Job Retention Scheme has protected the livelihoods of millions as economic activity has slumped.

This was just one of the many measures introduced by Government to support businesses, alongside income support schemes, cash grants, loans and business rates breaks.

However, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has clearly been felt right across the small business community, with thousands of small firms all over the UK fearing for their futures.

Policymakers now need to realise that the economy will not recover overnight. Support measures need to be kept under review to help businesses and individuals through the challenging times ahead.

For example, our research also shows that three quarters (74 per cent) of respondents say the ability to partially furlough workers would benefit them as it would allow them to bring staff back gradually and help to keep their business viable.

A flexible and phased approach to changes in the support available, rather than a ‘cliff edge’, will help businesses and individuals to adapt and contribute to restarting the economy.