Don’t count on small business customers returning post lockdown

Most customers will stay away from gyms, pubs and beauty salons despite being given all-clear to visit once again

Many Britons say they will feel uncomfortable going to newly reopened small business once lockdown is lifted.

Gyms, pubs and bars and beauty salons can expect customers to keep staying away, with over 60 per cent of customers saying they would still avoid them.

There is better news for garden centres with 70 per cent of Britons saying they would be happy to return once they are reopened, according to a YouGov survey for BBC Newsnight.

>See also: Half a million small businesses in financial distress

Clothing stores and hairdressers will also bounce back fairly strongly, with 48 per cent of people saying they would feel comfortable returning.

Public anxiety about going back into gyms, bars and restaurants will deflate small business owners hoping that the easing of lockdown restrictions will help kickstart the economy.

How comfortable would you feel visiting these businesses post-lockdown?

How comfortable/uncomfortable would you feel visiting the following once government eases lockdown?
Comfortable (%)Uncomfortable (%)Don't know (%)
Garden centres70256
Clothing stores48466
Restaurants 37576
Coffee shops36586
Pubs and bars32635
Beauty and nail salons32608
Source: YouGov
Source: YouGov

“For some businesses, particularly those which involve closer contact, or those whose clientele lean towards women or the old, simply reopening the doors again may not be enough to see customers flood back,” said Chris Curtis, political research manager at YouGov.

Women stay away from fashion

Specifically looking at clothing stores, 54 per cent of men say they would be comfortable going back, compared with 42 per cent of women.

And there is a similar age divide when it comes to fashion.

Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of 18 to 24-year-olds say they would feel comfortable shopping for clothes again, compared to just 46 per cent of those aged 50 to 64.

YouGov surveyed 1,652 adults between April 20-21 for its BBC Newsnight survey.

Six months to return to normal

Meanwhile, an earlier survey by public relations firm Fleishman Hillard has found that most Britons think it will take nearly six months to return to normal.

And more than one in five Britons believe it will take anything up to two years before life resumes as before.

Changed behaviour

As a result, nearly two thirds of all those surveyed across six countries – China, Germany, Italy, South Korea, the UK and the US – say they are postponing purchases and travel and 52 per cent of those say they expect their changed buying behaviours to continue.

Fleishman Hillard surveyed 1,123 UK adults between March 30 and April 3.

Further reading on coronavirus

Small business minister trying to help owner-directors hit by coronavirus

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...