BUSINESS confidence has dropped sharply as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, according to the latest report for the Winchester Business Improvement District.

A quarterly report says businesses predict that the median change in sales for 2020 versus 2019 will be minus 30 per cent.

The confidence score on a scale of -10 to +10 has dropped from +2.5 before the virus to minus 2. The report states: "This amounts to a fall in confidence of just over 21 per cent which is hardly surprising in the circumstances. It might have been much bigger."

The downturn in trade is shown by the usual 60 responses but this time only 26 businesses replied. Half said they have stopped trading during the crisis, 27 per cent were doing limited trade and only 23 per cent were trading normally.

On staffing BID businesses have gone to trouble to avoid redundancies with 91 per cent of respondents avoiding it. And 90 per cent of employers are continuing to pay salaries and wages to some extent. Most businesses [94 per cent] are paying at least 80 per cent of their staff costs including reliance on the government’s furlough support scheme.

Meanwhile Winchester BID is backing a national campaign started by Croydon BID to raise the bar and help many more retail, hospitality and leisure businesses survive the crisis.

The #RaiseTheBar campaign is calling on the Government to increase the rateable value threshold from £51,000 to £150,000 for eligibility for the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG). This will allow tens of thousands more businesses to access the grant.

The BID points out that the retail industry is worth £394 billion to the UK economy, the leisure sector £111 billion and hospitality £130 billion, altogether totalling £635 billion.

Paul Spencer, executive director of Winchester BID said: “The Government has announced an extensive support package for businesses coping with the economic impact of Coronavirus and businesses in Winchester are extremely grateful.

"Nevertheless, we are hearing from businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure above the rateable value threshold of £51,000 who feel excluded from this grant and are worried about their futures. The proposal put forward by the #RaiseTheBar campaign will help over 70 Winchester city centre businesses we love and cherish and many thousands more elsewhere across the country”.