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Almost half of firms will furlough most of their staff next week

The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) has said nearly half of firms will furlough at least half of their workforce over the next week.

A total of 44% of business will temporarily lay off at least 50% of staff, according to the organisation’s COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker.

The new tool also revealed more than three fifths of businesses are running out of money fast.

It adds while government help is welcome, firms are finding it difficult to wait weeks or months for the cash injection.

Paul Kelso looks at how store closures are affecting businesses and shoppers.

In addition, a majority of companies reported a significant decrease in their revenue from both the UK and overseas.

A report from the tracker states 18% of businesses reported less than a month’s worth of cash in reserve, while 44% reported only one to three months’ worth of cash in reserve.

Only six percent of respondents reported more than 12 months’ worth of cash in reserve.


Meanwhile 18% of businesses had closed operations temporarily and, although no respondents had yet closed business operations permanently, both figures are expected to rise over the coming weeks and months.

Director general for the BCC, Dr Adam Marshall, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on business and economic activity across the UK.

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“While businesses have welcomed the unprecedented size and scope of the government support packages, our findings highlight the urgent need for that support to reach businesses on the ground as soon as possible. The majority of firms cannot wait weeks or months for help to arrive.”

He added there was “no escaping” the challenge that is facing UK businesses and many were finding ways to contribute to the national effort.

“Chambers and their members are working together to play their part, including gathering unused PPE equipment from local businesses and delivering them to the NHS,” he said.

“I’ve no doubt we will see further examples of resilience and innovation – the hallmarks of the UK business community – in the coming weeks and months.”

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The tracker will serve as a barometer of business’ response to the government’s measures and changes to working practices over the next few months.

It will also track how quickly new government interventions are getting to the firms at the front line.

The first set of polling was conducted from 25 to 27 March and the BCC received responses from more than 600 businesses.

The news comes as Luke Johnson, a former chairman of Pizza Express, warned we could be facing a downturn similar to the Great Depression.

He added “several hundred” of his own staff at his firm Risk Capital Partners, which owns stakes in Gail’s Bakery, Brighton Pier and Giraffe restaurant chain, were also on furlough.


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