GOLOCAL


Northland business owners are being urged to get tech savvy after a new survey has revealed more than one third didn't have the capacity to operate online under Covid-19 restrictions.

163 businesses took part in the Northland Chamber of Commerce Covid-19 Business Survey over a 48-hour period in May.

They were asked a series of questions about business capacity and support as the coronavirus crisis has unfolded.

Around 35 per cent of those surveyed said they didn't have the capacity to operate online.

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Just over a third of businesses said they could operate at full capacity under level 3, another third said they could only operate at 50 per cent capacity, and nearly 18 per cent said they could not operate at all under level 3.

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Chamber chief executive Steve Smith said some of these businesses had been around a long time and never felt the need to get websites or social media pages to market themselves.

"But what just happened [with Covid-19] is very rare circumstances," he said.

"All businesses should have some form of online presence now, it's a really cheap thing to do. Smaller businesses do need to catch up."

The Chamber currently represents 491 small and large businesses in Northland ranging from retail, service, manufacturing exporters, importers and other organisations.

The survey is the first of a series to be carried out every month until August to gauge the skill sets of businesses and learn what they need moving into the economic recovery phase of Covid-19, Smith said.

They will be shared among members "so we can start to graft the activity going through this".

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Northland Chamber of Commerce is running a series of surveys to find out what businesses need as the country moves into the recovery period of Covid-19. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Northland Chamber of Commerce is running a series of surveys to find out what businesses need as the country moves into the recovery period of Covid-19. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Seventy-one businesses said they needed marketing support, followed closely by financial support, highlighted as important for 69 businesses.

Other areas businesses said they needed support with was wellness and mental health, and health and safety.

And while 60 percent said their landlord offered an "acceptable discount" during the lockdown, the remaining 40 percent said they did not.

Overall, Smith said the survey was "pretty much as we expected".

"The level at which they could re-engage in the workplace was higher than expected; we were not expecting as many businesses to get back to normal practices as quickly as they have. A high percentage were able to re-engage quickly and get back to work."

But Smith said he was worried about the future.

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"At the time the survey was done, we couldn't tell what their financial states were. We're working through that.

"At the moment there's a fair amount of optimism. But for retail it's too early to tell. As we went into level 2 there was this pent-up demand – people had been denied retail therapy during lockdown, and they have gone out and spent money.

"The big thing now is what next? Will the pent-up demand carry us through?

"I'm concerned how deep the recession will be and how long it will last. Whether it will be just the winter, or will it be several years?"
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