MOST people in Southampton say they are making more effort to support small businesses because of the impact of Covid-19, research suggests.

A survey by BT found 62 per cent were doing more to back small enterprises, while 77 per cent feared there local shops would not survive the pandemic.

However, 59 per cent said the pandemic had made them reluctant to visit shops.

BT’s poll of more than 2,000 consumers found that 66 per cent of Southampton residents were increasingly worried about the impact on their communities if local shops closed.

Sixty-three per cent agreed that their community depends on local businesses.

Jon Pollock, BT director for corporate and public sector in the South East, said: “Small businesses have undoubtedly been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic, with national and local lockdowns severely impacting their ability to trade.

“It’s really heartening to see that people in Southampton are coming out in force to support their local high street this Christmas, as these firms rely heavily on the festive period to generate the lion’s share of their profits.

“The fact that consumers want to engage with small businesses, particularly online, but sometimes face barriers in doing so, means that it is absolutely vital for them to adapt by moving online or risk being left behind.”

The survey also revealed the increasing competition small businesses faced from bigger online retailers.

Asked about the factors holding people back from supporting small businesses, 40 per cent of people in Southampton cited price, 22 per cent said limited product selection and 19 per cent cited the lack of web presence.

Other concerns include slow delivery, a lack of social media presence and data security.

Fifty-five per cent of Southampton respondents said small business played a key role in supporting local people, while 45 per cent recognised their importance in sustaining the economy and 45 per cent said they provided vital jobs.

BT has a Small Business Support Scheme aimed at boosting the connectivity, cashflow and confidence of small businesses through measures such as faster broadband, digital payments and digital skills.