Business Monitor shows low confidence as businesses wait for end of lockdown

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s fifth weekly Business Monitor survey shows business confidence remains low as employers wait to see how and when the lockdown will be relaxed.

The survey results reveal that more businesses reported a decline in sales and orders than those reporting an increase or no change in sales.

Most employers appear to have already made decisions about furloughing staff or making other reductions in their workforce. Over two-thirds of respondents reported no change in their employee count in the last week, while three-quarters expect no further change to their workforce in the next week. In the first three weeks of the survey, close to 50% of respondents had reported planning reductions to their workforce, but this has gone down to a quarter in the latest two surveys.

Cash management and the lack of adequate cash reserves to meet normal outgoings have been a serious concern ever since COVID-19 response measures were implemented. This week, a lot more businesses reported reduced cash reserves than those reporting an increase.

Business confidence continues to remain low with 42% of respondents not being confident at all about business prospects over the next three months, while another 31% were not so confident. Just under a quarter of respondents had some confidence in being able to maintain sales and turnover in the coming weeks.

Subrahmaniam Krishnan-Harihara, Head of Research at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “The survey results show that all parts of Greater Manchester are facing reduced levels of business confidence.

“We’ve seen how cash reserves have been hit and with the speculation about an ending to lockdown many businesses are looking at this critical area ahead of any re-opening. It is vital that government looks at a continuation of existing support as well as ways that they could flex this to meet new requirements in the short to medium term.

“Sentiment is likely to improve only when there is clarity on the relaxation of the lockdown and a return to the pre-pandemic business volume.”

The survey was conducted between 24th April and Thursday 1st May and captured the views of 77 businesses.

The Business Monitor survey was conducted by Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce with the support of pro-manchester, Manchester Law Society and the North West Business Leadership Team.