THE results of the COVID-19 Impact Survey (Take 3) conducted by the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture is now available. In April 2020, immediately after the first “Scale Back of Non- Essential Commercial and Social Activity, the Chamber conducted a survey of its members to assess the impact of the pandemic on their business. Since then on a quarterly basis, similar surveys have been conducted.
The results of the Survey have informed the Chambers’ Advocacy and Representation of its members during the ensuing period and has spawned a new “Smaller Member Support Program (SMSP)”. The SMSP was designed in light of the indication that the Chambers’ smaller members generally had been more severely negatively affected by the pandemic than their larger counterparts. Survey results have also been shared with the Government of St. Lucia and partner institutions, like the SLHTA.
This the third COVID-19 Impact Survey, delved into some new areas including looking at the responses and re-actions of firms to the pandemic, as well as for the first time including non-members among those polled, leading to a 52% increase in the number of responses. The response rate from Chamber members also moved from 30% to 35%. As a consequence of the increase in number of total respondents, Small Business represents a large percentage of total respondents as compared to previous COVID-19 Impact Surveys. It should be noted that, only 60% of respondents to this Survey (Take 3) responded to the previous Survey conducted in August 2020.
The survey examined the impact of the Pandemic on business operations such as sales and revenue, employment levels and related changes, as well as firms’ perspective on their own sustainability among other issues. As always, the Chamber has chosen not to editorialize and as such, the results are presented as is, with minimal commentary.
Executive Director of the Chamber Brian Louisy notes “the survey results provides valuable indicative information to the Chamber as we get a clearer appreciation as to how our members are being affected and what measures they are putting in place to ensure their survival”, moreover he says, “the insights provided allows us to be more responsive to members needs at this difficult time”. Louisy also opined that government policy makers and advisors, may find this information useful as it is much more-timely than traditional government surveys and information sources and can help them fashion more relevant and impactful policy to support the important business community.
The Survey shows that four out of every five business which responded, experienced a decline in revenue and sales between the months of October to December 2020. While one in four anticipate a decline in revenue for the first quarter of the year and 76% anticipate a decline in sales during that period. One in two respondents anticipate a decrease in the size of their workforce in the first quarter of the year. Only 11% of businesses that responded said business is back to normal, with 13% having closed their premises. The Pandemic has seen one in two business cutting back on expenditure, 42% decreasing hours of operation and 32% increasing online presence as a response to economic conditions.
The Chamber for its part, welcomes feedback from one and all and intends to conduct another survey to assess business performance and sentiment in the next quarter. The increase in the number of respondents adds even greater value and credibility to the results and has allowed the Chamber to drill down to conduct, sectoral analysis, as well as comparative reviews of impact among sectors, business of different sizes and even between Chamber Members and non-Members.
The Chamber thanks all firms that responded to the Survey, as the information gleaned will further inform the Chamber’s advocacy and work program moving forward. Members are encouraged to participate in these surveys as the greater the level of participation, the more reflective the results are of membership and overall business performance in St. Lucia. The more detailed analysis of the Survey, is available to all Chamber Members upon request.