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SMEs across the UK are counting the cost of the lockdown as they prepare for a testing final quarter of 2020. Risktech business Nimbla, surveyed 2,000 UK SMEs and found that £2.2bn in revenue (for goods and services provided during lockdown) has been lost because those customers fell into administration. A number that is set to increase dramatically over the course of the next year.
More than a third (38%) of SMEs are still waiting to be paid an average of £59,013, for work they completed before the lockdown. Worryingly, a fifth (21%) of these companies believe they will never recover the full amount, losing on average £24,903 because those customers have gone into administration. Looking at the bigger picture, this is worth £2.2bn in revenue across all SMEs (with outstanding payments) that will not be realised.
Lost time and revenue
Businesses reported, on average, 6 invoices go unpaid every year with half of these worth £41,193 written off due to their customers becoming insolvent. Yet, surprisingly, only 4% of business owners take out trade credit or invoice insurance, which protects the supplier against their customers’ insolvency.
Business owners do spend time thinking about a potential insolvency event with their customers. In the event that happened, most of them (83%) would continue trading but the impact on cash flow would lead to changes in asking customers for deposits, requesting shorter payment terms, declining larger projects and fear their credit scores falling.
Business owners spend, on average, two weeks chasing an invoice payment which eventually was never paid because the customer became insolvent.
Flemming Bengtsen, CEO at Nimbla commented:
“The impact the lockdown has had on SMEs, who are the heart and soul of the UK economy, is astonishing. Many have survived several attacks during the pandemic and, now, knowing they won’t get paid for the work they did is another huge body blow. There could be more bad news on the horizon for smaller businesses as high street chains face difficulties and potential insolvencies.”
Businesses anticipate making, on average, £263,000 revenue between now and the end of the year. However, as customers seek longer payment terms from 30 to 60 days to settle invoices, three in five (60%) business owners are nervous about not getting paid at all with expectations that one in six customers will become insolvent before the end of the year.
This is a major issue as more than a third (36%) of businesses were heavily concentrated, reporting that more than two-thirds of their revenues came from a handful of customers.
Overall, business owners reported 61% of their customers said they were doing well in terms of their revenue, going steady with sales and generally content with the business environment. Yet, business owners were sceptical about their buoyant spirit, with only a quarter (26%) believing what they say.
Flemming Bengtsen added:
“The current uncertain economic environment means doing business isn’t easy, it’s made all the more difficult with SMEs anxious about getting paid. Trading on trust and confidence has deteriorated. It is time, as a collective, to bring this back. Business owners cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand; they should protect themselves and insure against the potential insolvency of their customers.”