Business credit scores stabilise despite ongoing challenges

New research from Experian, which analyses 2.2 million UK businesses, has revealed that, on average, businesses’ credit scores are recovering well from the impact of COVID-19.

Using Experian’s Commercial Delphi Score calculator, business credit score levels were back up to the pre-pandemic average of 44 by September 2021, compared to a score of 40 throughout most of lockdown.

A business credit score is the measure of a business’s creditworthiness, which is made up from a number of factors to understand the financial position of a business and its level of financial risk. The score ranges from 0 to 100, with 0 representing a high risk and 100 representing a low risk. It’s one indicator lenders use to assess businesses seeking growth funding.

Looking at how business credit scores have changed by industry during the period in question, the retail sector, for one, has shown resilience, pivoting to digital platforms, and continuing to serve consumers despite restrictions and challenges presented by not only the pandemic, but also issues with global supply chains and labour shortages.

While credit scores in this sector are still, on average, below pre-pandemic levels, the average jumped sharply in September 2021 and now stands at 31 – a 19.2% increase compared to the same period in 2020.

Conversely, the travel sector, which has been hit hardest by lockdown restrictions, has fared worse. Average scores hit a new low of 30.5 in September 2021 – a drop of 30.7% compared to March 2020.

When we look at average scores by region, the South West has led the way, buoyed by an influx of tourism through the summer months, averaging at 49.8 between March 2020 and September 2021.

East Midlands also performed well – averaging 45.6 over the same time period. By August 2021, organisations in the North East of England had collectively reached a business credit score of 44, matching its pre-pandemic levels, and since then improved its score to 45 in September 2021.

London businesses were least impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, despite having the lowest average scores across the UK. Average scores remained consistent at 26 throughout the first lockdown in 2020, only dropping a single point to 25 in December. The capital remained at this level throughout the 2021 winter lockdown but has since recovered to its pre-pandemic level.

London is generally considered a start-up hotspot, so it’s likely that the average age of many of these businesses is lower than other parts of the country. More established companies tend to have a more detailed credit history, translating into a more positive credit score. Meanwhile, younger businesses usually score lower.

James McGarva, Managing Director of Business Information Services at Experian, said: “The UK business sector can be proud of what it has achieved over the last 18 months. Despite ongoing pressures presented not only by the impact of COVID-19, but also other well-documented macroeconomic pressures such as labour shortages and global supply chain issues, the ability of businesses to adapt has been impressive.

“By looking at business credit scores on a national scale, we can see how many businesses’ financial circumstances are improving, presenting a lower risk for lenders and therefore enhancing their prospects of getting access to the finance they need to thrive. We would encourage all businesses to keep a check on their credit histories and take steps to improve their scores where possible.”