Dartmouth Business Survey – final result and conclusions

Just to cheer you up I have headed this post with an exhibit from the recent Dart Gallery exhibition of work by Chris Forsey. A great painting of the Dartmouth passenger ferry slip to remind us what a great place Dartmouth is to live. (plus, of course, promoting the gallery!)

Well done Dartmouth , with a response of 97 businesses in town ( now up to 104!) we now have a good picture of the impact of Covid-19 on our community. Many thanks to all the respondents to our survey and thanks to Dartmouth Town Council for supporting the survey.

I will summarise my conclusions from this exercise, together with all the supplementary comments made by participants, and then show the final results. It is well worth studying these results and we believe they will support an appropriate response from both our local authorities and our representatives in central government.

Dartmouth Business News Business Survey – Conclusions

Dartmouth Business News has now closed the Dartmouth Business Survey – Covid response campaign carried out with the support of Dartmouth Town Council.

First I want to thank all of the 97 businesses that participated in this survey, the response was terrific and the results were seen and acted on by our local MP Anthony Mangnall as soon as they were published. If you look on the Business News survey webpage you will see Anthony’s response.

So I would also like to thank Anthony for acting on our behalf in lobbying his colleagues in Government to support the needs of small towns like Dartmouth, which are so dependent on Tourism for their survival. The visitors we bring to the UK provide a significant boost to the economy and it is vital that we get it back on its feet asap.

What conclusions can we draw from the survey?

Firstly, and as expected, the Coronavirus crisis has had a major impact on the Business community and economy of the town. You might argue that was obvious but we can now see in more detail how critical it has been.

We had input from 10 different sectors in the town which is great. Its worth remembering that we probably have about 200 to 250 businesses registered in the town (based on my experience with the Dartmouth BID). A 97 response is therefore very good and we can assume it is representational of all businesses in the town. The top three sectors were Retail, self catering accommodation and visitor attractions.

60% of respondents were more than 50% dependent on Tourism. 76% had received the Government grant and 53% had laid off their employees under the furlough scheme.

Perhaps the most striking result is that over 80% of businesses have been either badly or very badly effected by the crisis. Worse still is the fact that 7 businesses have already decided they will close as a result of Coronavirus (7%).

Over 60% of businesses can survive until the end of July if the lock-down persists meaning the number of independent traders in the town would be decimated if the lock-down is not lifted before the end of July. However if the lock-down was lifted by the end of May then nearly 40% of businesses would recover within 6 months. This bears out the view of the Governor of the Bank of England who says that it will be the deepest decline in the economy ever experienced, but also that the recovery will be the strongest and fastest we have ever seen. This is encouraging news which probably wont be reported by the media. I believe he is correct because the underlying reason for the decline is not economic and the economic indicators remain strong. Sadly, in my opinion, the negative reporting by the media will have the effect of depressing the recovery if it persists.

If the furlough scheme is ended before the end of the lock-down then nearly 50% of businesses will have to lay off employees. Businesses also believe they will continue to need extra longer term financial support to help their businesses recover. Reduced rates, rent and Corporation tax levels would all help.

General comments to question 8 “what financial support will you need in the short term” were as below

  • Any grants for the B&Bs who seem to have currently been completely forgotten by the government through all of this would be nice 

  • Visit England submission to government gives a good series of suggestions 

  • No further support needed in immediate future 

  • INCREASED MARKETING

  • Nothing

  • Reduction in utilities costs

  • I would like to receive the grant that I’m entitled to and to have the ability to access a bounce back loan5/6/2020

  • Longer Furlough

  • Continued furloughing of staff until next year`s full trading season, not just next low season.5/6/2020 12:49

  • We pay Council Tax not Business Rates so are not eligible for the current support grants.

  • Need to open town for some form of business activity.

  • Purchases made vat free as we are below vat threshold

  • We have tried to apply for the new Government backed Bounceback loan but Barclays cannot cope with the demand on systems. 3 days without luck so far.

  • The grant we’ve had is enough

  • Any grant/help/acknowledgement (without once again being excluded via the small print) would be nice! A lot of outgoings and zero coming in!

  • The main think is to reopen internal UK travel, when the confirmatory data says so, and to prevent vilification of tourists by the retired generation in the south west who are anti-tourism

  • Applied for grant but have not yet succeeded in receiving anything

  • Grants for loss of fundraising caused by the lockdown

  • We are OK as it is.

  • Clear path for the way forward

  • Concerned that client invoices will go long overdue / unpaid, and we’re not informed soon enough of losses. Needs to be a big push on small business being paid on time. I can see a lot of “cashflow games” playing by some. We need to deter this.

  • As a market trader, there is no help. The summer season is a complete right off.

Another key area they will need support in is Marketing. Many of the businesses believe a strong marketing campaign for Dartmouth will be vital. Stay-cations will be a strong trend post Coronavirus but we will be competing with many UK destinations for the business. If we don’t launch a major marketing campaign then we will miss out on this opportunity and the loss of some of our most important festivals will have a massive effect on income for the town.

The additional comments made to question 9 “What additional support would you like to see after the crisis” were as follows:

  • Vaccination programme
  • Support and advice with risk assessment and social distancing within our premises

  • Promotion of Dartmouth as a whole: “We’re open”!

  • People being allowed to travel down to Devon

  • Assistance on promoting events

  • Clear government guidance on the expectations of all small business can open when the premises do not lend themselves to employing social distancing.

  • I am very concerned that locals have spoken so disparagingly about visitors (demanding they keep them and their virus out of Dartmouth for example), visitors will respond by saying ‘we’re not going where we’re not welcome’ and choosing another town. So the town needs to change its narrative – and fast! I fear the damage is done – which is unfortunate as it is obvious foreign holidays will be very limited so we may have lost a fantastic opportunity.

  • Easing of travel restrictions

  • Marketing Dartmouth for tourism

  • Lifting of the lock-down ASAP

  • If lock-down is to continue until the end of the tourist season (and all current indications are that it will), assistance will also be required through the winter months since businesses won’t be able to rely on their savings made through the season as they would otherwise have done (this year and previously)

  • Place based marketing is essential. The Dartmouth Town Council is ineffective, the BID was wound up and the small town politics gets in the way. A more systematic South Devon effort is required. Devon doesn’t have an identity like Cornwall and suffers accordingly

  • A treatment or vaccine for Corvid 19. any volume of visitors before then could be disastrous

  • National tourism campaign

Finally more than 80% of businesses in Dartmouth have seen their turnover reduce by more than 50% during the lock-down with 34% being more than 75% down in turnover. This is a big hit on their numbers and will need a long time to recover fully.

However with the right support and the will to succeed we will recover and grow stronger as a result. The fundamentals of Dartmouth’s tourism success are still there, you can’t take away our location, our beauty and our commitment to making Dartmouth successful.

These are my personal conclusions from the survey, I am sure the Town Council with have their own conclusions so I look forward to seeing our local authorities action plan for recovery.

Paul Reach

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Many thanks to Dartmouth Business for facilitating this survey. While the news that Lockdown has been disastrous for our town’s economy won’t shock anyone, we needed to approach our MP with hard data to back up that assertion. In fact Anthony Mangnall preempted that approach by making contact with us. I shall make sure he receives the final results and conclusions. He has already stated they will help him make his case for further support for businesses dependent on tourism. Many many thanks to everyone that took part in this survey.

  2. A good result. However Paul you have previously said there are 450 businesses in Dartmouth not the 200-250 quoted here.

    As a consultant and also a mail order company, I was nervous about filling in the form as others may have been too.

    • Actually David if you read it again you will see that what I have said before is that there are about 450 business rated premises in Dartmouth (473 actually). SHDC for instance has 13 Business Rated premises in the town including car parks toilets etc. DTC has 7 business rated premises. There are also 170 business rated premises on Norton Park, but they are mostly not businesses just business rated to avoiding paying rates at all, which is a shame. Premises does not equate to Businesses so I have studied the list of premises to assess roughly how many businesses there are. You should read more carefully Dave (smiley)

  3. Are you joking with me or just plain dumb.What I said above was that there are about 450 business rated premises. Do you simply not understand that some businesses own more than one premise?? eg the Royal castle owns 3 premises,the Dart Marina Hotel owns 3 even Simon Drew owned 3 at the time of the BID. SHDC own 13 DTCouncil own 7 or 8 I think. I stand by my assertion, which I have always made,that there are about 250 actual busnesses in Dartmouth.

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