Firms optimistic for speedy recovery

Becky and Ria from ThinkFit

A survey of 650 businesses based in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has revealed how they have embraced change during the coronavirus pandemic.

Commissioned by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth Hub and carried out by PFA Research, the survey’s key findings show business aspirations for growth, changes to how businesses operate, how workforces have adapted, and financial decisions.

Communications manager for the Growth Hub, Kirsty Miles-Musgrave, said: “There’s no doubt the last year has been difficult for many businesses, and we wanted to find out how organisations had dealt with all the disruption.

“We are really encouraged to see 45% of businesses are planning for growth, with 4% expecting this to be rapid. I think this shows the resilience of our county and the ambitious nature of its residents.”

Businesses were interviewed between February 5 and March 5, during the UK’s third national lockdown. The survey explored the actions they had taken, or were planning to take, in order to manage the impact of coronavirus on their organisations.

37% of respondents said they had found new markets, such as Truro-based Think Fit which expanded the reach of its exercise classes nationally through moving their sessions online.

Serving guests at the spacious Prawn on the Farm location

Alongside this, 36% said they had started offering a new product or service over the last year. Cornwall’s hospitality businesses have demonstrated innovation in the face of huge challenges, with Prawn on the Lawn’s creation of a new pop-up restaurant at Trerethern Farm in Padstow proving exceptionally popular. The idea came through the need for more space to comply with social distancing, as its restaurant in the centre of the harbour town was too small to operate viably. 79% of businesses said they also had to make changes to their business to allow for social distancing.

A third of the businesses surveyed (34%) adapted their retail operations into e-commerce and phone orders to manage the impact. Redruth-based Duchy Charcuterie has thrived through selling direct to consumers online, taking around 2,000 orders since having a new e-commerce website built in the first lockdown.

Miles-Musgrave added: “It’s not just products and services which have adapted in order to survive. Workplaces have changed a lot, with 36% of employers now encouraging remote working. 50% of businesses have also relied on the furlough scheme this year.

“Financial support has been well received in the county, with 56% of businesses applying for bounce back or coronavirus business interruption loans, and Government grants. These were most commonly used as working capital and to improve cashflow.”