East businesses gripped by fears of third wave

Crane lifting up container in a port.

A Grant Thornton poll shows a majority of mid-market firms finding that fears of a third wave is affecting their international growth - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than half of the East of England’s mid-sized businesses’ growth plans have stalled amid fears of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a survey suggests.

Grant Thornton’s latest business tracker shows the region’s mid-market firms are finding it harder to expand internationally than they were before the pandemic. Concerns about a third wave of the virus are causing the biggest impact.

It found that 56% of mid-market business leaders in the East of England were finding it harder to grow their business internationally amid changing restrictions and ongoing uncertainty. 

The biggest challenge to international growth the businesses identified were fears over a third wave of the virus (54%) followed by concerns about the mobility of talent (44%). A lack of global economic growth (40%) also featured strongly in the findings.

Regional partner and practice leader at Grant Thornton James Brown said: “The risk of a third wave of the virus in the UK adds another layer of complexity to all of the uncertainty that businesses are already dealing with. Some sectors such as travel, tourism and hospitality, are obviously harder hit by the extension of restrictions but ongoing changes to guidance and deadlines affect all businesses.  

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“While the UK’s success in vaccinating its own population adds a level of confidence on the domestic front this needs to be mirrored internationally in order to be able to move forward collectively together. Businesses in the East that trade internationally are clearly finding the current operating environment difficult and will likely have been reassured by the G7 leaders’ pledge to vaccinate the world.

“Though a third and disruptive wave of the virus is the primary concern for mid-market leaders in this moment, businesses are also dealing with the ups and downs of UK economic forecasts, ongoing complexity in their supply chains, and trying to embed some of the positive changes to the ways of working that have been accelerated by remote working. 

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“Our Business Outlook Tracker data, collected in bi-monthly surveys of mid-market leaders, shows that the mid-market is feeling slightly less optimistic about the outlook for the UK economy than they were at the beginning of this year (-4% from January to June), although it also reveals that their expectations for profit levels have increased significantly (+18% from January to June).

"This tells us that leaders are confident in their own business’s ability to weather the changes, and accept constant, unpredictable change as a given.”

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