Two in five small firms in Northern Ireland 'may never open again' - FSB

FSB regional policy chair Tina McKenzie
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TWO in five two small businesses in Northern Ireland fear they will never open again while nearly half are considering redundancies as they struggle to pay bills, a survey has found.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called for the introduction of part-time furloughing as it highlighted the plight of those struggling to access Government schemes and Universal Credit.

The body's regional policy chair Tina McKenzie said: "Many firms in Northern Ireland are concerned about the future viability of their businesses."

The FSB's survey of 239 small business owners in the north found that nearly six in 10 (57 per cent) have been forced to close since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

Of those, 37 per cent said they will not reopen or are unsure whether they will ever open again.

More than a third (35 per cent) have failed to make, or faced severe difficulties in making, commercial rent or mortgage repayments as a result of the pandemic's economic impacts.

A similar proportion (26 per cent) have had to shelve product development plans.

In response to the strain being placed on them, almost half (46 per cent) have either made, or are considering, redundancies.

Ms McKenzie said: "It is now recognised that the risks associated with coronavirus will not disappear quickly, and it is therefore vital that support for business does not fall off a cliff-edge and is tailored to reflect conditions."

Her comments came as the government's furlough scheme was extended to October by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with employees continuing to receive 80 per cent of their monthly wages up to £2,500.

But he said the government will ask companies to "start sharing" the cost of the scheme from August.

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