This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Photo courtesy NIAID-RML via AP.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Photo courtesy NIAID-RML via AP.

New ‘Surrey Pulse Survey’ reveals local businesses top pandemic concerns

This is Surrey Board of Trade’s third such survey

The Surrey Board of Trade’s third “Surrey Pulse Survey” indicates that 14.74 per cent of local businesses have seen their business increase since January despite the COVID-19 pandemic, while 20 per cent experienced no impact, 25.26 per cent have “mostly or fully” re-opened and 12.64 per cent have partially re-opened.

“We are going to see significant changes in optimism and action as a result of the recent release of the BC Economic Recovery Plan,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the board. “This Surrey pulse survey is still important as a starting indicator of what needs to be overcome when the four biggest concerns for businesses are staff absences because they cannot offer work from home, not being able to ship goods because of a disrupted supply chain, a decrease in demand for products/services, and shifting to new products/services in order to remain in business.”

“We will need to watch the trend lines from these four concerns as the economy re-opens,” Huberman said.

Of those businesses that responded to the survey, 15.45 per cent are in the manufacturing sector, 11.82 per cent in construction, 8.18 per cent in finance and insurance, and 11.82 per cent of respondents are in other sectors.

Of these, more than 88 per cent have less than 500 employees, 67 per cent have less than 50, and 55 per cent have less than 20. None of the survey respondents closed their businesses permanently but 5.26 per cent temporarily closed.

More than 23 per cent of Surrey respondents reported an increase in revenue compared to February 2020, while more than 32 per cent experienced a decline of 20 per cent or more since last year, down by some 10 per cent since the January 2021 survey.

READ ALSO: Surrey has recovered 33K jobs that were lost to pandemic

According to this latest Surrey Pulse Survey, the businesses were asked when they expect business to return to pre-pandemic staffing and revenue levels. Thirty-three responded that they are now back to pre-pandemic levels, 30 per cent expect to arrive there in the second half of 2021 and one-third don’t expect to see that until next year while almost two per cent don’t expect to ever fully recover.

Huberman said that of those who responded to both the January 2021 survey and the October 2020 survey, 23 per cent are more optimistic than they were in January while 20 per cent are more pessimistic. Moreover, 55 per cent of businesses that responded to both surveys “are feeling similarly to when they last responded to the survey.”

In this latest round, the four biggest areas businesses are concerned about are staff absences because they can’t offer work from home, not being able to ship goods because of a disrupted supply chain, decrease in demand for their services or products, and shifting to new products and services to remain in business.

The survey also indicated that among the key barriers to bringing back and retaining workers most cited by respondents was employees’ concerns about safety at work. As far as remote working goes, of those Surrey businesses that had staff that were working from home in April, 66.7 per cent expect all staff – or a portion in a hybrid model – to remain working remotely after vaccination.

Meantime, the Surrey Board of Trade intends to open its office for in-person service on July 5.

“It is important to recognize that we want the economy to recover, but we must do so safely,” Huberman said. “Just because you have had one vaccination doesn’t mean that you can return to pre-pandemic normality.”

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