MORE Government help is needed to help small businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire recover from a ‘perfect storm’ of post-pandemic economic challenges, according to the region’s Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The latest Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub SmartRegion report – which gathers information from its business engagements as well as statistics and data from Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the CWLEP and other organisations – has revealed the impact of the ‘perfect storm’.
Supply chain difficulties, movement of goods, labour and skills shortages, self-isolation rules, phasing out of Government support, issues relating to the end of Covid-19 restrictions, and business and consumer confidence are providing challenges to companies.
Business support organisations are meeting on a weekly basis to discuss how to provide the support firms need in Coventry and Warwickshire to weather the current situation, as well as monitor emerging challenges and opportunities for the local economy.
Lee Osborne, Development Manager for the FSB in Coventry and Warwickshire, said there is still uncertainty on the horizon as firms prepare for the end of the Government’s support schemes.
He said: “Firms across the region are now having to manage debt repayments, rent arrears, and skills shortages on top of rising prices.
“Skills shortages and rising input costs should concern us all – anything that puts the brakes on small business recovery is bad news for the economy.
“Small businesses across Coventry and Warwickshire are resilient and ambitious and while confidence is moving in the right direction, we need to see further positive actions from the Government to energise the small business recovery further.
“With small firms making up over 98 per cent of private sector businesses across Coventry and Warwickshire, it is however positive to see FSB data showing that small firms have strong growth and hiring aspirations.
“With Coventry having started its year as UK City of Culture and attracting the national spotlight there will be opportunities for leisure, hospitality, and tourism businesses. The Commonwealth Games alongside other major infrastructure projects such as HS2 will also provide supply chain opportunities.
“We would encourage small businesses to look out for business support events through FSB and other support organisations to help businesses through this challenging period, and to register on sites like FinditCW to access a range of supply chain opportunities, helping them to survive, and create and sustain jobs in the longer term.”
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said the SmartRegion report outlined the concerns of businesses as the ‘perfect storm’ clouds gathered.
He said: “Footfall in many city and town centres across the region has ‘flatlined’, stifling the recovery of the retail, and hospitality sectors in particular, and also those centres relying on office workplaces and spending from office workers.
“A wide range of product and raw material supply problems are being reported across multiple sectors, ranging from food shortages to construction materials, and wood, steel and aluminium to semiconductors.
“At best this is resulting in supply delays, at worst significant price increases or even lack of supply resulting in halted production. This is now impacting cashflow for many businesses in the supply chain.
“Businesses are reporting ongoing major difficulties moving goods, through both import and export.
“There are so many factors which business owners are currently having to juggle which is leading to a great deal of uncertainty for the short and long-term future of our economy but we have experienced advisors at the Growth Hub here to help.”