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Survey reveals the impact of lockdowns on local businesses

More than 63 percent of respondents to a recent survey of Canterbury businesses are reporting significant financial impacts from COVID-19. Over 21 percent cited moderate impact, and over seven percent cited minor impact.

The data was gathered as part of a survey distributed to local businesses in early May, during Alert Level 3, by The Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and ChristchurchNZ.

The survey, sent to more than 4,000 businesses, received more than 470 responses.

The biggest challenges operating under Level 3 were cited as cashflow, lack of customers, and social distancing rules.

Looking forward three months, 60 percent of businesses still felt that the cashflow impact will be profound.

Staff numbers too will be affected, with around 30 percent of businesses believing their staffing numbers would have a significant negative impact of over 25 percent.

Exporters remain more optimistic, with 46 percent responding that there will be no effect on their sales, while 30 percent think the negative effect will be over 25 percent.

The survey shows that smaller businesses have been more impacted by loss of customers and increased costs, while larger ones have been impacted by supply chain.

The survey was commissioned to better understand the regional impact of the pandemic and changes during this time across different industries, and ensure support was focused appropriately.

An earlier survey sent out during Alert Level 4 showed over 81 percent of respondents reported significant financial impacts from COVID-19.

While it is not possible to match respondents between the surveys due to anonymity, Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Leeann Watson says the results demonstrate the changing impact during the pandemic.

“All business segments have been affected by cashflow issues. Manufacturers in particular have had challenges around social distancing under Level 3, although they expect this to reduce under Level 2.

“Accommodation and Hospitality also expected to face challenges under Level 2 around increased costs of operating, social distancing and lack of customers, expecting to take many months to be back anywhere near full trading capacity.

“The survey results reinforce what we are seeing—namely the very real need for continued targeted financial support and the need for HR as we continue to see increased needs around support with restructuring, redundancy and resizing for businesses.”

ChristchurchNZ chief executive, Joanna Norris says the results illustrated the need for ongoing action to support business survival, save jobs and keep as much of the economy functioning as possible.

‘’We are, and will continue to, encouraging Christchurch residents to spend locally. It is vital we retain and grow local spending to ensure sufficient cashflow, and ultimately support local jobs.”

The survey comments showed that continued support around restructuring remains important and some businesses also identified mental health as an issue. A need for professional support remains high, as well as support through online tools.

Ongoing advocacy and heightened communication between businesses and Government remains high on the agenda, particularly around the trans-Tasman bubble concept.

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