ONLY 14 per cent of St Helens businesses are working at full capacity following coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

The latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) conducted by St Helens Chamber shows the first statistical picture of the pressures of COVID-19 on businesses across St Helens.

The impact of COVID-19 has been dramatic, with significant numbers of St Helens businesses operating below capacity following the pandemic, and just 14 per cent working at full capacity.

Domestic UK business has reduced significantly, with 76 per cent of firms saying that UK sales have decreased and 80 per cent of firms reporting declines in future orders.

However this picture is not completely unanimous – 7 per cent of respondents have seen increased UK sales and 17 per cent report that sales have remained constant.

However the survey shows that business confidence is low, with 62 per cent of firms now believing that their business’s turnover will worsen over the next 12 months, compared to 44 per cent of firms who expected their turnover to increase at the end of 2019.

The future impact on jobs is obviously of significance. There has been a major reduction in the number of firms who attempted to recruit this quarter, down to 13 per cent of the business base - at the end of 2019 this figure was 40 per cent.

Of the 20 firms who had attempted to recruit, roles were predominately for fulltime temporary staff.

Looking ahead to the next quarter, 28 per cent of firms expect their workforce to decrease in the next three months, while 65 per cent expect it to remain constant and just 7 per cent expect it to increase.

Tracy Mawson, deputy chief executive at St Helens Chamber, said: “These results show the speed at which the economy shut down because of the pandemic.

"While this is a drastic fall in business overall, there is a minority of businesses increasing domestic and international sales, and recruiting locally.

"The huge resilience levels of St Helens firms is shown in the fact that over 45 per cent of firms are planning to grow again over the next 12 months.

“St Helens Chamber is cautiously welcoming steps to reopen and increase capacity, but we are still a long way from business as usual.

"Broader national and local efforts to boost business and consumer confidence will help firms trade and support jobs and our local economy. St Helens Chamber is able to help businesses diversify and adopt digital technology.”

The survey took in responses from 2,935 employees in 157 companies, 28 per cent of them were in manufacturing and 72 per cent were in the services sector.

A copy of the full survey report is available at