BCEC launches new report, Back in Business? WA Small Businesses and the Impact of COVID-19

ContactsJoanna Holcombe, Industry Engagement Coordinator
Published15 February 2021

The Back in Business? WA Small Businesses and the Impact of COVID-19 report launch was held online on Friday 5 February 2021.

Jessica Strutt, journalist and presenter, opened the event, remarking that “the impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the economy and business sector, but for small businesses these shocks can be more challenging to deal with.

“This week’s lockdown is a set-back for WA’s small businesses, with business closures and restrictions putting a (hopefully) temporary halt to the small business sector’s recovery.”

Curtin University’s Nyungar Cultural Advisor Ingrid Cumming provided a moving Welcome to Country.

Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells and Dr Daniel Kiely delivered the latest findings from BCEC’s Small Business Survey 2020, a unique and comprehensive survey of WA’s small businesses co-funded by BCEC and the WA Government.

The event was hosted by Jessica Strutt, Presenter and Journalist, leading an expert panel with Sinead Taylor, Bankwest Executive General Manager; David Eaton, Small Business Commissioner Western Australia, Rachael Ferguson, SynxBody Co- Founder and CEO and small business owner of Elite Sports Podiatry; and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Alan Duncan, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Director.

Screenshot of Rebecca Cassells presenting the 'Back in Business' report online

Launching the report, Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells, co-author and Deputy Director of BCEC, highlighted the contribution of small businesses to the WA economy.

“Small Businesses have been referred to as the engine room for growth. More than 230,000 small businesses operate in Western Australia, employing more than 500,000 people.

“The Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre has captured new data to understand what impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses. Do they have the supports needed to succeed? How do they or did they see the future? Do they intend to access government supports? Are they planning on buying new equipment, are they planning on hiring more workers? And how do they vary across WA’s regions?”

Dr Daniel Kiely, BCEC Senior Research Fellow and co-author, discussed the geographical extent of sales by small businesses in WA and the supports small businesses needed to succeed.

“The BCEC Small Business survey enabled us to look at the relationship between geographical reach and businesses financial position through COVID-19.

“Overall a greater share of WA small businesses report being in a worse financial position as a result of COVID-19. However those small businesses that trade internationally have faced significantly greater financial pressure during this time.”

Screengrab of online presenters: Sinead Taylor, David Eaton, Alan Duncan and Rachael Ferguson

During the panel, Sinead Taylor spoke to the feedback from Bankwest small business customers during last year’s restrictions and the snap lockdown experienced during the week of the report launch.

“The lockdown has a significant negative impact on businesses that operate in those non-essential services. The only silver lining is that all of the sectors that we saw in sharp and steep decline are the same industries that spend trend data has shown from the past 12 months that have rebounded the quickest when restrictions ease.”

Small Business Commissioner David Eaton spoke to the issue of late payments and the impact on small businesses.

“Corporate Australia lags behind their international counterparts; as highlighted in the report cash flow is critical to small businesses; prompt payment is not only the right thing to do, it is also critically important to the boarder economy.”

Rachael Ferguson spoke to her insights as a small business owner in Perth, including the importance of accurate and timely information about the supports available to small business owners.

“A lot of the findings in the report are extremely valuable learnings that we can take from last year to make sure we keep protecting our businesses in WA.”

Alan Duncan, BCEC Director, spoke to the impact of the snap lockdown that Perth was experiencing and the resilience and ability to adapt that the small business sector had shown throughout last year.

“One of the key take homes in the survey was the striking resilience in the small business sector (and) the optimism that they carried through to 2021.” Alan also addressed the importance that strong supports had played, in particular JobKeeper, and the effect of supports coming to an end might have.