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Despite announcements of additional government support and positive early signs on a variety of potential vaccines, businesses concerns rise ahead of a challenging holiday season. The latest figures from the ongoing ‘Coronavirus – The Impact on Business’ survey – conducted by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) – suggest the optimism felt over the summer months may have dissipated slightly.

The estimates of revenue decline amid the pandemic had improved over the summer, from a low of almost half (-47.2%) in May to around a quarter in September (-27.9%). However, these early signs of recovery appear to have slipped as new restrictions have meant revenue decline has risen to around a third (-34.2%).

In November, the majority (79%) of organisations surveyed reported the economic impact of the pandemic as being negative – with a quarter believing (25%) it will be extremely so. Key concerns about cashflows (76%) and cut-backs (53%) continue to lead the way, but there is also rising sentiment about the burden of social distancing (41%) and restrictions disproportionately impacting certain sectors (38%).

Moreover, 59% of businesses expect to see overall budgets decrease in the coming year, with staffing (59% expect the budget to decrease), marketing (57%), and capital expenditure (56%) expected to be worst hit.

“Across the data and marketing industry, trading remains extremely difficult for many businesses. Revenues remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels and budgets for the coming year look set to be similarly reduced,” says Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA. “Even as news of positive progress on vaccines offers a beacon of light, many businesses will have to make difficult decisions over the coming months. We welcome the government’s unprecedented support for business and will continue to represent our industry, ensuring it has the assistance it needs.”

Three-quarters (75%) of professionals surveyed reported they are continuing to work from home and avoid unnecessary travel, a rise from 66% in September. They also increasingly expect to remain in this home working environment well into the New Year – on average respondents expected to work from home for around 50 days, up from just under 40 just two months ago.

However, there are some concerns about the ability to continue to serve customers effectively in this environment. Over one in three of the organisations that responded to the survey said their ability to serve customers’ needs was becoming harder (43%) and to carry out marketing was also getting worse (35%).

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