Shocking statistics released today (Friday) show the devastating effect of Covid-19 on the Isle of Wight’s business community.

A major survey undertaken by the Isle of Wight Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows 90 per cent of Island businesses fear for their trading in the coming three months because of ongoing concerns over the pandemic.

Cashflow, lockdowns and social distancing were all highlighted as major hurdles while a lack of information on some key support and assistance was also a key issue identified.

Isle of Wight County Press: The IW FSB's business confidence question.The IW FSB's business confidence question.

The findings back up the County Press’s story last week highlighting the anger felt about the disparity between large chains and small traders during lockdown 2.

All Island businesses, whether FSB members or not, were invited to participate in the survey between October 12 and November 13. Nearly 200 small businesses responded to the survey conducted as a result of a series of meetings between the FSB and Bob Seely MP.

As well as being presented to Mr Seely, who will use the data to lobby government on behalf of the local business community, the findings have also been given to the IW Council and Solent LEP.

Norman Arnold, of the IW FSB said: “Frankly, the results are not surprising as the effects of the pandemic – and steps to mitigate its effects – are clearly going to affect great swathes of the Island’s economy.

Isle of Wight County Press: The IW FSB's Norman Arnold and IW MP Bob Seely.The IW FSB's Norman Arnold and IW MP Bob Seely.

Norman Arnold (FSB) (l) and Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely

“What the survey does, however, is to give us an understanding of the scale of the problem. It also identifies certain specific areas – locally, regionally and nationally – where support or assistance is needed.

“During this pandemic we have heard it said that sound decision-making should be based on robust evidence and transparency.

“Well now we have detailed information from almost 200 local businesses which we are happy to share with anyone who has a role to play in protecting the Island’s economy.

In pictures, the sorry state of Newport's shopping centre.

“Clearly, the biggest challenge for small businesses on the Island is financial survival. Many need more financial assistance along with advice to help them in finding a way forward.”

“I would like to thank all those businesses who have found the time during a very challenging period to contribute to this survey.”

As well as asking businesses how they viewed the future, the survey also asked what steps businesses had taken to adapt – revealing that more than three-quarters had introduced new working practices as a result of the pandemic.

Why did small shops have to shut in Lockdown 2?

For example, almost 13 per cent had introduced home deliveries while 14 per cent had brought in online sales.

There was also a great disparity in the awareness of assistance schemes run by government and other agencies.

Isle of Wight County Press: The question about adapting businesses.The question about adapting businesses.

While 82 per cent of respondents were aware of the Business Bounce Back Loan, just 15 per cent knew about the Solent LEP peer to peer networking programme Nearly two-thirds of business had heard of the Buy Local scheme.

Mr Seely said: “The findings bring into stark reality the effects of Covid and the steps taken by Government to restrict the spread of the virus. While the government has acted in numerous ways to assist businesses, it remains clear that a significant amount of local companies are worried about the future. The feedback from business is bleak.

“All the more reason for Islanders to back local businesses as a priority especially in the run up to Christmas.

“I opposed the second lockdown precisely because of the damage it would do to our economy – as evidenced by the survey. “

“We are now returning to a regional tiered system. That is in part due to persuasive voices like the FSB’s, but also due to MPs who have made it clear that shutting small shops and the retail sector is not scientifically evidence-based and comes at a high price in terms of jobs and livelihoods. We know that poverty is a driver of ill-health and we need to be mindful of that.

“I will be taking up issues they have raised with government at every opportunity.”