Nearly 6 in 10 sole traders trading less – or not at all – as restrictions ease

12th August 2021 | Blogs, News

By iwoca


  • Sole traders may have been disproportionately impacted by COVID restrictions: 58% are either not trading or trading less than pre-COVID.

  • Almost half of sole traders worry they won’t be able to afford paying themselves a salary in the next 6 months.

  • Nearly 1 in 4 sole traders will take zero days off in the next year.

Sole traders – who account for 59% of the UK business population1 – have been worst affected out of all businesses by COVID restrictions, a survey by small business lender iwoca has found.  The majority (58%) of sole traders (defined as those who are the exclusive owners of their businesses) are trading less than pre-COVID, compared to 43% of (limited) companies. What’s more, sole traders are twice as likely not to be trading at all, with 14% in this position compared to 7% of limited companies.

COVID- secure workplace measures disproportionately impacted sole traders

As the UK has reopened, small businesses report that having to be ‘COVID-secure’ took its toll; but it seems sole traders suffered the biggest hit. Almost a third (32%) said they were making fewer sales due to COVID-secure workplace measures (compared to 24% of limited companies), and – where 29% of limited companies had fewer customers – nearly 4 in 10 sole traders suffered the same (39%).

The research also revealed that nearly half of business owners with sole trader status (46%) were concerned they’d struggle to afford their own wages in the next 6 months (compared to 37% of those without).

Nearly 1 in 4 sole traders will take zero days off in the next year

As SMEs continue to wrestle against the pandemic, time off seems to have become a luxury they can’t afford. And again: it’s sole traders who’re worst affected, with 24% not even planning to take one day off in the next 12 months (compared to 13% of limited companies). The majority – 59% – plan to take less than ten days off in the next year (compared to 50% of limited companies).

Seema Desai, Chief Operating Officer of iwoca added: “The pandemic has hit sole traders particularly hard. We need our sole traders back on their feet - hopefully the lifting of restrictions will help them to recover, which will be great for them and also for the economy more broadly.”

iwoca distributed nearly £400 million to small businesses through the Government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and in June 2020 launched iwocaPay – an online buy now pay later invoice checkout to help small businesses get paid. The lender is reaching 1.8 million businesses across the UK and Germany through its embedded lending technology, which allows businesses to access loans through a range of platforms such as accountancy software and digital neo-banks. iwoca has also recently partnered with Mental Health UK on research to identify the needs of small business owners and will soon launch a tailored mental health support package.


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