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 SME businesses in the East Midlands prioritised people as well as profit during the pandemic

SME businesses in the East Midlands prioritised people as well as profit during the pandemic

30% of businesses that had to adapt since March 2020 have done so to protect jobs and 43% saying they did so to protect their employees mental and physical wellbeing  


  • 77%* of SME businesses surveyed in the East Midlands say they have had to adapt their businesses since March 2020 
  • 41% of East Midlands SMEs polled that adapted say that they had to adopt more technology 
  • 98%* of East Midlands SMEs polled that adapted say the impact of technology on their business has been for the positive since March 2020 
  • Only 27% of businesses surveyed are optimistic about their business growth over the next 12 months 
  • 18% of East Midlands businesses surveyed that adapted say they’ve relied more on local business since March 2020 


Research from Vimcar, conducted by Opinion Matters, today reveals a picture of how East Midlands SMEs that own company car vehicles adapted to uncertainty and economic pressure during the Coronavirus lockdowns, what they focused on to ensure their survival and how they see their future roadmap to recovery panning out. 

The data reveals that 77%* of SME businesses surveyed in the East Midlands say they have had to adapt their businesses since March 2020. 30% of those that have had to adapt, have done so to protect jobs. 

Although nearly a third of companies polled have had to adapt to stay afloat (30%) and over a third to protect their profitability (38%) since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, retention of staff remained a focus with 43% of businesses surveyed saying they did so to protect their employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.   

A further 29% adapted to meet customer demand, with just under a quarter of companies surveyed (18%) having to increase their fleet size to meet this, and close to a quarter of companies polled (18%) relied more on local custom. 

Digital driving SME recovery 

Of the East Midlands businesses that have had to adapt, making the digital shift has been a driver for SMEs with 41% saying that they had to adopt more technology within the business. Those SMEs who adapted did so across the following areas: increasing their online presence (34%), increasing the number of cashless payments (27%), relying more on social media (25%), and 29% turning to a digital platform to manage their company vehicles.   

As more of the UK has turned to online shopping during this time, implementing ecommerce technology to impact future growth is obvious and 25% businesses in the East Midlands are committing to do that.  

57% of those who have introduced technology or digital implementations since March 2020 said being more reliant on technology since March 2020 has made their business more efficient and 39% have saved money as a result. 

Looking ahead to the roadmap to recovery 

However, this evolution does not come without its challenges, and it is no surprise that Coronavirus restrictions (23%), Brexit regulations (14%) and financial challenges (18%) are all top reasons for concern for business owners in the East Midlands. And these worries seem to be the backdrop to SMEs’ outlook when it comes to business growth over the next 12 months with only 27% of businesses surveyed feeling optimistic. 

When they adapted and the difference it has made: 

The data reveals that 54% of East Midlands SMEs polled that adapted made the most changes after the first lockdown, between June and August 2020. 98%* of SMEs polled in the East Midlands say the impact of technology on their business has been positive since March 2020.  

And there does not seem to be any going back for these businesses: investment in the best technology is going to be an increasingly important way for companies to overcome challenges in the next 12 months. 30% of respondents in the East Midlands confirmed that commitment and over a third of businesses in the region who adapted (39%) will continue to adopt tech to impact growth.   

Ronald Clancy, UK Country Manager, Vimcar comments on the research:

“2020 was a unique year that has changed the way businesses function forever. This data shows us just how resilient and adaptable SMEs in the East Midlands have had to be to ensure the continuation of their businesses – how agile and innovative they have been, and how they turned to technology to enhance their businesses to ensure they weathered the storm.  

This research reveals how SMEs took a hybrid approach - investing in technology and their people - and just how much SMEs were a part of the digital shift that occurred during lockdown. 

When we look to the future and the roadmap to recovery, despite the vaccination programme and the promise of unlocking of restrictions, there are still challenges ahead, but it is positive to see that the integration of technology is an ongoing commitment for these businesses and seen as critical for their future success.” 

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