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‘Fear of uncertainty to continue’ for Clare businesses

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70% of businesses not currently trading in Clare have laid off staff, according to a COVID-19 survey published today (Tuesday).

A business survey conducted by Ennis Chamber of Commerce in association with Clare FM obtained the views of personnel working in the SME sector in the county. Those who completed the survey were classed as the owner or manager of their particular business.

As reported by The Clare Echo on Monday night, there is a desire among business personnel to see Ennis pedestrianised for a period to ensure physical distancing can be adhered to.

Businesses surveyed were located in Ennis, Kilrush, Shannon, Ennistymon, Lisdoonvarna, Doolin, Liscannor, Lahinch, Ballyvaughan, Kilfenora, Carron, Kilkishen, Tulla, Mountshannon, Scarriff, Killaloe, Tuamgraney, Newmarket-on-Fergus. Bunratty, Clarecastle and Kilmaley.

By sector the industry of the respondents were in retail (42%), hospitality (27%), professional services (12%), tourism (8%), manufacturing (2%) and other (9%).

80% of those that partook in the survey were not currently trading. Of these, 70% have laid off employees, 52% have staff on the temporary wage subsidy and 33% have kept employees on their books.

An overwhelming majority (94%) of businesses utilising the temporary wage subsidy scheme want to see it continuing after reopening. Over half (60%) want it to continue for six months, 32% for three months, 10% for two months and 2% want it to remain for one month after reopening.

Cash flow (93%) has the biggest impact of COVID-19 on businesses that completed the survey. This is followed by jobs, mental wellbeing and other. Among the responses listed under ‘other’ were, difficulty in supply, disruption to supply chain, the worry of keeping staff and customers safe, the stress and upset of letting staff go, the uncertainty and “the shock of business just stopping overnight”.

“There is no chance American tourists will come back in 2020. Total wipe-out, we just can’t survive on domestic tourism alone – the question for us is whether it’s worth opening our doors at all until next year and if that’s what we do how do we pay our overheads,” a tourism employer stated.

Another business person stated, “Our landlord won’t listen and won’t negotiate. Either he doesn’t understand or is pretending not to understand the cash implications of our business being shut. We are afraid we will lose our business for this reason”.

UK retail, hospitality and tourism companies and leisure centres will not have to pay business rates from 2020 to 2021. 99% of those surveyed wished to see the same applied in Ireland. 48% said a rates holiday should not be limited to those specific sectors.

Four Clare businesses outlined that they would need over €100,000 to bounce back from COVID-19 with another stating they would require €500,000 to successfully recover. 26% of those surveyed required €30,000 and 22% admitted it would take €10,000 to reboot their business. 48% of businesses said they found their insurance companies were not cooperative during the pandemic while 71% believed their bank was helpful at the time.

CEO of Ennis Chamber, Margaret O’Brien said of the findings, “The responses reveal just how stressed and anxious business owners are and although we now have a government roadmap for reopening our economy, the level of uncertainty evident from the responses by business owners in Co. Clare, suggests that those fears, rooted in uncertainty, are set to continue. Shops, cafes, pubs, hotels, hairdressers and beauticians now know when they can open, but that knowledge does little to quell the fear that co-existing with COVID-19 restrictions could mean trading to break even, as opposed to turning a profit”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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