A new global survey of small and medium sized businesses has found more than 26% of SMBs closed between January-May this year due to COVID-19.

The Future of Business Survey, jointly run by Facebook, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), sought input from SMBs across 50 countries in May, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of the pandemic.

It found the worst hit sectors to be consumer-focussed, while micro and female led businesses were also significantly affected.

Of the businesses surveyed, 26% had stopped face-to-face trading since government restrictions and lockdown measures began to be introduced in January. In some countries, this was as high as 50%.

In Australia, business operators were found to have the highest anxiety around future cash flow and more than half of those involved said they anticipated future financial challenges. While 66% said their sales were down this year on 2019.

Compared to the US and UK, Australia also had a higher rate of job reductions, at 31% of SMBs surveyed, compared to 28% in the UK and 27% in the US.

However, many business owners remain upbeat, with 60% reporting they felt optimistic despite the challenges. Many were also embracing online trading and 43% had netted a quarter of their sales online.

The survey is an ongoing project which will survey businesses monthly on their experiences and the financial impacts and challenges posed by the pandemic and resulting government containment measures, with findings to be published biannually.

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