Confidence crashes as businesses feel full impact of coronavirus lockdown

A clothing store closed up because of the crisis Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

A clothing store closed up because of the crisis Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS - Credit: Archant

The virtual shutdown of the East Anglian economy has brought business confidence crashing down with nearly a third of firms ceasing operations, a new survey reveals.

A Byron outlet closed because of the coronavirus lockdown Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

A Byron outlet closed because of the coronavirus lockdown Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS - Credit: Archant

Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer for April 2020 saw business confidence plummet by 30 points to -29% as the full impact of the coronavirus lockdown was felt, meaning the balance has shifted sharply from positive to negative sentiment.

Firms’ confidence in their own business prospects was -13%, compared to -8% in March, with 26% of firms operating below half capacity, and 66% seeing a negative impact on demand because of the crisis.

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The Business Barometer surveys 1,200 businesses each month to gauge how the economy is doing, and provide early signals about regional and national UK trends.

The majority of East of England firms reported a significant decrease in demand for their goods and services, with 66% seeing demand fall in April compared to just 16% who reported a rise.

More than a quarter of businesses in the region were operating at below 50% capacity, 44% were operating at above half-capacity – and almost a third (30%) weren’t operating at all.

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Two thirds (67%) of businesses reported disruption to their supply chain during April, with just a third (33%) expecting the situation to improve within three months.

David Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said the disruption caused by the crisis had seen demand for local firms’ goods and services hit hard, and major disruption to supply chains.

“All in all, this has created extremely challenging trading conditions for businesses in the East of England,” he said.

“We’re working hard to help them navigate the unprecedented challenge of coronavirus and this includes setting aside £2bn of arrangement fee-free finance for those directly affected by the pandemic.”

Across the UK, overall confidence fell 38 points to -32% as firms’ optimism in the economy and confidence in their own prospects dropped sharply, the business barometer shows.

Wales reported the lowest confidence at -52%.

Confidence fell across all four sectors, with manufacturing suffering the sharpest decline, with a 46% decline to -35%. The retail sector plunged to -33%, the construction sector to -20%, and services to -22%.

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