Businesses staying afloat and reopening safely
Since lockdown began during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Government has been supporting businesses financially and, more recently, as they take the tentative steps back to work.
There is a wealth of information available and for many, the GOV.uk website has been a reassuring and informative source of guidance on the business support available. A business support finder tool is also now available to check eligibility.
In fast-changing and unfamiliar circumstances, it is often helpful to see examples of how others are tackling challenges to take inspiration and reassurance from them.
Since April, the government has released case studies to show how businesses of different sizes and sectors have accessed the variety of government support schemes and how these have helped them keep trading.
Steve Pritchard, Managing Director of It Works Media Ltd accessed the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) through Barclays Bank. Employing six people, the search marketing agency in Leeds has a variety of clients operating in the retail and travel sectors – two of the hardest-hit in the pandemic.
Steve explained: “Though we were reluctant to take on any debt during the crisis, the BBLS was the perfect solution for us. The money will be invested in employing an experienced new business manager to help develop our long-term strategy and secure a new client base, so we can continue to support our existing clients and grow the business in 2020 and beyond.”
For family-run industrial suppliers, Hall-Fast, payment deferrals and supplier closures presented a significant challenge to the business continuing to trade. However, with the help of several of the government financial schemes, together with a willingness to adapt, the business is staying afloat. The team’s only furloughed employee is also now back at work and the hardware store has been modified to comply with social distancing guidance.
“We have successfully deferred filing our accounts, used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough one of our employees, and have received a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) through NatWest. We are also exploring deferring our VAT payments, Business Rates Relief and if we can get a Small Business Grant,” Managing Director, Malcolm Hall explained.
He continued: “Thanks to these schemes, we have been able to work with suppliers that are still open to sell new items that we did not have just a few weeks ago.”
As the UK’s businesses continue to adapt to the changing business landscape, the UK Government has introduced safer workplace guidance to ensure they can reopen safely, protecting both staff and customers.
A thorough risk assessment and premises analysis set Blend Coffee Co. directors Oli Crawley and Tom Jennion on the right path to reopening their independent coffee shop. The duo has opted to keep their baristas furloughed while running the café themselves, to alleviate any pressure their team may feel to return and to test the new protocols.
"Our primary concern is to keep people safe, so to make sure our coffee shop was ready to be reopened we implemented a number of safer working measures”, they explained.
These new measures include:
- A deep clean of the shop prior to reopening
- Implementation of a new ordering layout
- A new policy stipulating zero customers inside the store
- The till system has been moved to the front of the shop, with orders automatically being sent to the back of the house for preparation
- A new collection process: Customers to be a minimum of two metres away (behind signage) whilst ordering. There is a waiting area outside (adhering to social distancing), and once their order is ready, the customer can safely collect from the collection point.
- Only accepting card payments
- New cleaning schedules of the premises and all areas which come into contact with both customers and staff
- Pre and post-shift cleaning
“We ran a test prior to reopening to ensure that our new measures would work and allow us and our customers to stay safe”, they concluded.
After closing for a week, Surinder Josan quickly realised that his family business, All Seasons DIY store was being relied upon in his local community for essential products.
“In order to reopen we had to reassess how we both serve and interact with our customers, and we adopted several new measures to comply with social distancing to keep both ourselves and our customers safe”, he said.
“New measures include two-metre markers outside the entrance, limiting the number of people in store at one time, installing screens at the checkout areas, encouraging contactless payments and lowering the minimum card spend to £1, and offering hand wipes to customers. We have also ensured that my mother has not returned to work, since she is elderly and at greater risk.”
The full range of case studies is available on the Coronavirus Business Support blog.
If you have any questions about the financial schemes that are available to your business, how to safely reopen, or any other business queries, contact the national Business Support Helpline.