In April 2020 we carried out a survey among heritage craftspeople on their businesses outlook during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey showed that:
- 73% of respondents were at reduced capacity or were unable to work as an indirect result of COVID-19;
- 71% believed their turnover would reduce by more than half; and
- 56% believed there’s less than a 50:50 chance of their business surviving the next six months.
Summary of findings – 4 May 2020
- 84% sole traders or freelance contractors.
- 6% small business owners.
- This is broadly reflective of the overall makeup of the heritage crafts sector as shown in Mapping Heritage Crafts (2012).
Current situation as a result of COVID-19:
- 19% still working at normal levels.
- 38% at reduced capacity.
- 35% unable to work as a result of business (as opposed to health) factors.
- This means that 73% are at reduced capacity or are unable to work as an indirect result of COVID-19.
- Only 4% of people believe their turnover will remain stable.
- 71% of people believe their turnover will reduce by more than half.
- 41% of people believe their turnover will reduce by more than three quarters.
- Only 24% of people believe there’s more than a 75% chance of their business surviving the next six months.
- 56% of people believe there’s less than a 50% chance of their business surviving the next six months.
- 92% of people are currently experiencing problems selling their work or getting commissions.
The most cited reasons for this was the cancellation of selling events, exhibitions and festivals and restrictions on one-to-one teaching.
- Some respondents were unsure about whether they are supposed to us the postal system for sales.
Supply chain issues:
- 38% of people are currently experiencing supply chain problems impacting on their business.
- Clay, wool, animal hair, timber, metal, metal thread, tools, and packaging materials have all been reported as being in short supply.
- Some respondents harvest their own materials, but are unsure whether this constitutes essential travel if their businesses are reliant upon it? One respondent is uncertain about using a chainsaw for fear of increasing the load on the NHS in the event of a work accident.
- Only 4% of respondents are currently in receipt of the Government support on offer, either being furloughed or claiming Universal credit.
- 30% are not yet in receipt of Government support but intend to make use of it, though more than one respondent said that this will not provide enough income to live on.
- 28% are unsure of whether or not they qualify for Government support. Reasons for the uncertainty include not having high enough turnover, having another part time job or a pension supplementing their income, and the fact that they have been told not to contact HMRC but to wait to be contacted. We have given advice and guidance for those who provided contact details.
- 31% believe that they are ineligible for government support. The reasons include being a new company that is yet to file a tax return, having savings in the bank, having a partner earning over a certain amount, and working from non-rated premises.
- Reassurance that the Government recognises and values this sector, and that crafts practitioners will be eligible for support.
- Support needs to come quicker. Many businesses won’t survive until June.
- In cases where support is deferred, an eligibility check now would help ease uncertainty and stress.
- 12% of respondents requested a form of Universal Basic Income for all citizens rather than the current system which allows certain individuals and businesses to fall through the gaps. This was not prompted by any of the survey questions.
- Extra money should be made available for critically endangered crafts where the fate of an at-risk craft relies on few individuals and/or businesses.
- The Employee Retention Scheme should be based on tax returns rather than ePAYE for those companies that do not use the latter.
- The Employee Retention Scheme should be extended to Company Directors of small companies, many of whom are in the same position as the self employed.
- There should be more loan repayment and business rate holidays.