2020 has brought upon us a lot of unprecedented problems, that affected us all. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed scores of UK businesses so far, and experts predict that the full financial shockwave of the crisis has yet to even hit our shores. With reduced trade, the closure of many enterprises particularly in the hospitality sector, and significant numbers of the public with less disposable income, things look bleak for British business.
As we edge ever closer to the winter period, the usual excitement and buzz around seasonal trading have been replaced by fears of a second lockdown.
Many worries that such an event could drive even more businesses under, with significant property rates and overheads continuing to stack up despite diminished takings.
Here we take a look at what a second lockdown might mean for all of the UK businesses and discuss some of the steps that businesses can take to prepare themselves for the unknown that is to come.
What would a second lockdown mean for UK businesses?
Whilst the country holds its breath in the hope that a second lockdown won’t be necessary, it has become clear that local lockdowns are possible in regions where COVID-19 infections begin to rise. As new rules regarding trading hours and operational restrictions come in on a national level, more specific measures could be taken in towns and cities where positive testing figures spike. In such places, businesses such as cafes, pubs, and shops may be forced to close, with reduced footfall still on the cards in any case since a considerable number of offices have sent their staff to work from home.
Unfortunately, businesses cannot expect the government or the public to respond to a second wave of coronavirus in the same way as when the infection first came to the UK in the first two quarters of 2020. Generally speaking, there are two features of a second lockdown that businesses can bank on:
Reduced levels of government financial support, including a toned-down version of the furlough system which the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated to have cost the Treasury around £60 billion; and
Less tolerance of coronavirus-related disruption, and the potential for backlash for organizations who ‘getting it wrong’ by not adhering to all necessary measures or by putting customers at risk.
Actions to take in preparation for a new lockdown
Clearly, the consequences of a second lockdown could be terrible for businesses in the UK and indeed across the world. There are, however, steps that can be taken to secure your business’s best interests in the event of the worst-case scenario. To get your business into fighting shape in case of a second business shut-down, follow these steps and keep an open mind.
Review your initial pandemic plan
From introducing formal working from home policies to restricting the number of staff and customers that can be on your premises at any one time, learning from the past is non-negotiable. With a recent lockdown already under our belts, businesses can benefit from hindsight and take stock of what went well the first time around.
Understanding areas where your business didn’t perform so well could also make it easier to tweak the strategy and make it slicker in time for any new measures. Maybe you didn’t adapt to online sales quickly enough, or perhaps your customers weren’t sure whether you were open. Either way, use this opportunity to learn from past mistakes and go forward with a comprehensive plan.
Keep tabs on your cash flow
The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly one of the greatest black swan events in living memory. Businesses have clearly struggled under the restrictions brought in by the UK government, but because this affects the entire economy, it’s essential to be aware of how other links in the supply chain are coping.
If your business is struggling to keep up with operational costs on account of payments not reaching you quickly enough, you may wish to consider opting for a partnership with a merchant services company that provides same-day funding. With money in your account on the same day as purchases are made, your cash flow will be steady enough to see you through.
Bolster your IT infrastructure
When the lockdown was first introduced in mid-March, the nation had to make their peace with remote working on a grand scale. Back then, many businesses hoped that this would be a temporary solution and that they would be welcoming the workforce back to offices by the Summer.
As we now know, that simply didn’t happen, and the nature of work has shifted online for many people. For businesses to cope with this new way of working, it’s necessary to have robust IT systems in place. Upgrading your systems could allow your staff to work seamlessly as if they were together in the office, and with the global economy in turmoil, cyber-security is more important than ever.
Shift to a reliable payment solution
You can make as many preparations as you like, but if you don’t have a reliable payment solution in place, you won’t be able to benefit from the other measures taken. Whether you’re selling in a newly COVID-secure store and need a contactless card reader, or if you’ve started taking orders online and need an eCommerce payment gateway, UTP Group Merchant Services could cover all of your needs. They provide reliable, high-quality payment solutions to arrange of businesses. As a customer, you will also benefit from enhanced fraud protection and excellent UK-based customer service support.
Use this time wisely
Regardless of what your business does or which demographics it targets, now is the time to be making preparations for the winter ahead. Any storm can be weathered if enough thought goes into anticipation. And even though, nobody can truly predict what might happen as the colder months roll in, if there is to be a second lockdown, preparing early is sure to pay off.