The March quarter will go down in history for the sheer level of carnage and devastation caused by COVID-19. Revenue, staffing and profits have all been hit and hit hard.
For more than 70 per cent of business to report a 30 per cent or more drop in revenue for the quarter is staggering. And the outlook for the road ahead is just as grim with 98 per cent of businesses expecting the local and national economy to weaken in the next 12 months.
Their doors may be able to re-open in some capacity over the coming weeks, but businesses are still forecasting things to get worse before they get better with 60 per cent of SMEs expecting further decline in business conditions, sales, revenue and profits in the next quarter too.
It seems the reverberations through the economy will be felt for many months to come, long after the health issue is brought under control and social restrictions are eased.
Long term growth strategies have been put on hold with the mode of business right now solely about adapting and surviving.
The grave reality is that some will not survive this catastrophic event.
We finished the survey of business expectations by asking respondents how confident they were of being able to see out ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. To have 36 per cent cast doubt on whether they can last another three months of restrictions, highlights a lack of financial reserves in most SMEs.
Through the doom and gloom though is at least one beacon of light.
The COVID-19 pandemic has showed evidence of South Australia’s ability to rapidly adapt to adversity and not throw in the towel.
In the survey, more than 83 per cent of businesses indicated they had been able to adjust their operations in some way to continue operating through the crisis. Businesses has also proved to be innovative, with a quarter reporting they had introduced a new specific service or product in this time.
Although their forward plans may have changed, businesses are likely to come out of this more agile and with better systems in place having been forced to take stock of their overall operations and identify areas for improvement.
Good things will come out of the COVID-19 situation and that will include leaner businesses and maybe a more globally competitive South Australia.
But in the interim, we will be living with the economic impact of this once-in-a-generation crisis for some time to come. It will be a long march to the end, and we have only just begun.