A RECORD number of new businesses were formed in Hampshire last year despite the Covid crisis.

There were 15,534 new companies registered in the county in 2020, a 2.4 per cent rise on the number formed 2019.

Hampshire had a total of 121,331 registered companies at the end of the year, up 5.7 per cent on 2019.

The figures from the Inform Direct Review of Company Formations are based on data from Companies House and the Office for National Statistics.

Southampton saw the highest number of new businesses at 2,180, followed by Portsmouth (1,845) and East Hampshire (1,814).

John Korchak, operations director at Inform Direct, said: “It is excellent news to see that Hampshire has achieved a record year for new company formations during 2020 despite the unprecedented uncertainties brought by Covid-19.

“Many of the new company formations are in the retail sector, with a large number of new businesses set up to sell goods online or locally, thereby taking advantage of customers’ changing shopping habits.

“Secondly, the effect of the pandemic and national lockdowns means that sadly some existing businesses have folded and employees made redundant, and we see many of those people setting up new ventures on their own as an alternative way to earn a living.

“2020 was a year like no other for UK businesses. Although we can look forward to a brighter future with the vaccination programme, there remain unknown factors such as how quickly the economy will recover and of course the impact of Brexit.”

The UK saw a record-breaking 780,766 new businesses formed, compared with 690,763 in 2019.

The overall number of UK companies also continued to grow, to 4.83million an 8.2 per cent increase on the total of 4,471,008 at the end of 2019.

The number of company dissolutions across the UK – 418,427 during 2020 – was the lowest since 2015.

Inform Direct – which provides company secretarial and formation software – said it remained to be seen whether the positive trends would last, with government support for businesses due to be withdrawn.

It warned some new enterprises set up during the pandemic might be short-lived, as people return to full-time employment or struggle to take the business to the next level.

The 2,180 new Southampton businesses takes the city’s total to 14,733.

Portsmouth has 12,216 businesses including its new 1,845, while East Hampshire has a total of 9,857.

Winchester had 1,412 new businesses (total 13,817), New Forest 1,283 (11,135), Basingstoke and Deane 1,173 (9,870),Havant 1,026 (8,332), Test Valley 1,004 (8,469), Eastleigh 958 (9,577), Fareham 894 (7,540), Rushmoor 861 (5,857), Hart 679 (6,319) and Gosport 382 (2,583).