Business Disruption Amid CORVID-19 Outbreak
Updated: Mar 27
Being a UK based PR and Marketing agency, we are seeing first-hand the fears from our customers in the hospitality and tourism industries as the Corona Virus spreads from China, across Europe. Italy is in lock-down, Six Nations and Football games cancelled and some were even being played behind closed doors.
This led to increased anxiety and fears from businesses owners, workers and customers of these often fragile industries. But with very little guidance and advice coming from local government, what can we do to ensure minimum disruption to our business?
Then came the lockdown.
Degu Media have been running for many years and have always adopted "remote working" as the best practice for our business. It's not possible for a bar or restaurant or tourist attraction to follow suit, but there is a great deal that should be implemented. Even now, during the lockdown period, it's easy to think you can rest. But think of it as given time, use it wisely to ensure your business not only survives, but prospers when the come-back is announced.
1. Marketing Communications- Okay so we're obviously going to mention that effective marketing is key to getting through whatever comes our way, but it's true. Effective communications with customers, new and old, is probably the most important thing you can do. We have devised measures to ensure our customers has systems in place months ago and in times like this, we cushion the blow any disruption will have. Think social media marketing, management, data capture (online and offline) and email marketing. Degu Media are available for a FREE consultation where we can chat with you about putting together a plan for your business. Even now, more than ever, you should be making your strategy. Remember you're after sales income, not likes or emojis.
2. Sales - Maximise on your sales for the next 24 months, think ahead and adapt to the changing environment. If you are a bar or restaurant, look at the delivery options and the benefits of adapting your business. This is one of the most challenging times ever for your business, we recommend adapting quickly and have systems in place to help you. Use this opportunity wisely to maximise your sales in the next 24 months, not just during the lockdown period.
The UK Prime Minister has explicitly said that restaurant kitchens can remain open to provide takeaways and delivery.
3. Visible Message - Overcome customers fears, let them know that your offering is clean, what measures you are taking to minimise any exposure, are you providing hand sanitisers to everyone on entry, are you asking those our have mild symptoms to stay at home? Have you adapted contactless take-out and delivery? Do you market your food hygiene rating? How about your staff? Are they still employed? The public care and want to know.
4. Attract new customers - This is going to be increasingly more difficult now that lock-down measures are implemented, but attracting new customers is key. We don't mean in general, but we mean NOW. Attract as many customers through your doors, as quick as you can and get your cashflow up. At Degu Media, we have systems and key partners in the hospitality industry that we use on a regular basis to help with this. This has got to be high on your priorities now. Look at everywhere you can get sales from; agencies, discount offer sellers, magazines, radio, networking, and your SEO.
You can still sell, even if your business is closed.
5. Events - Think differently, remember people should now be staying at home. Are you adjusting to this and can you bring your events online and into your customers home?
6. Advertising - If you're ready to brace for impact, why should you spend money on advertising? Planning ahead is more important than ever, and we recommend setting an advertising budget now, a budget for online digital advertising and a separate budget for offline advertising. Now more than ever, are magazine's just as important in capturing the attention of your potential new customers; look at tourism, residents, and businesses as separate groups to target and look at the best ways to reach them. When looking at print advertising; look at the "cost per issue" value, not an inflated 'readership' estimate. ABC audited publications are worth looking at rather than from those that do not substantiate their figures.
7. Budget 2020 - The government has announced various support packages for small businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry. From support for Statutory Sick Pay (2bn) through to abolishment of business rates. In addition, new Corona Virus Support Loans are going to be made available (see below). Ensure you get all the latest information on these new developments and not miss out on the lifelines being given.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Government has created a new fund that will provide money to pay 80% of wages, up to a maximum of £2500 a month of gross pay for any of your staff who are not working during this period. This means you may be able to avoid redundancies as the Government will give you - as an employer - a grant covering the cost of most of the employee’s wage if they are not working due to the crisis. To claim this you must designate the relevant employee as ‘furloughed’ - meaning you have given them a leave of absence - and then contact HMRC using a new online portal. The scheme will allow you to backdate claims until the 1st March as long as you were registered for PAYE before 28th February. Full details are now available here.
Self Employed Income Support Scheme
Use this scheme if you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus.
This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.
More details of this scheme can be found here.
The Government is underwriting loans worth £330 billion for businesses struggling with the impact of Coronavirus. For firms with less than £41 million in annual turnover, they will be able to borrow up to £5 million via banks and other lenders, with no interest due for the first 12 months. You can find more information on this scheme and which banks will be offering the loans here.
We found the process to be over-complicated and some banks were unethically asking for personal guarantees and even secured assets. We believe the UK Government has communicated with these lenders to stop this practice.
Using a broker, you may incur an arrangement fee, but it may be a lot simpler to find the right lender for your circumstances. Try this broker, Portman Asset Finance, who seem to be knowledgable on what is available.
For larger firms, you will be able to access support through the Bank of England which you can find out more information about them here. Both of these schemes are now available.
Business Rates / Grants
These announcements are on top of the Government’s previous package of support, which means that no restaurant will be required to pay business rates for the year 2020/21, and that businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can receive grants of up to £25,000. For those that work from home, you get nothing.
All VAT payments have been deferred for three months. This means you will not have to pay any VAT until the end of June - with the option to agree a deferred payment plan to the end of the financial year.