High Street Business Resilience Survey (May 2020)

Research from the Institute of Place Management shows that 96% of businesses in English town and city centres need government support in order to navigate COVID-19 and its impact on high streets. This report investigates the resilience of businesses across different sectors on the high street and how they have responded to lockdown measures.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

In May 2020, the Institute of Place Management released the results of its COVID-19 research into business resilience in town and city centres.

The research was commissioned by the Professional, Research and Data Group of the High Streets Task Force to quickly inform government policy and identify the town centre businesses that are likely to be most at risk.

The least resilient currently were shown to be: food and beverage; personal and other services; human health and social work; and retail. You can read the key findings below.


The Institute thanks all the business owners that have contributed to the research, and The BID Foundation, British BIDs and the Association of Town and City Management for distributing the survey to their members.

Key findings

The purpose of this study was to investigate perceptions of high street business owners and managers regarding the resilience of their businesses in the current situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research design involved an online survey of high street businesses located within a range of town and city centres in England. Data were obtained from 1,016 respondents between 17-27 April 2020. The vast majority of those surveyed were small independent businesses from retail, food and beverage, and personal services sectors – typical 'high street’ businesses.

  • 55% of business premises were closed and not currently operating

  • 67.4% of businesses have seen an 81-100% decrease in turnover compared to last year

  • Almost all of respondents (96%) have applied for Government support, via one or more of its relief schemes.
    The most prevalent support schemes were the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (i.e. ‘furlough’), deferment of VAT payments, business rates relief and small business grants.

  • Government financial support was most frequently used for paying suppliers, staff wages, utilities and rent

  • Only 61% of businesses had paid their last monthly rent bill in full.
    (77% of survey respondents were tenants in their business premises).

  • 52% expect to pay their next month’s rent in full
    Many businesses (42%) have negotiated some alternative arrangement with their landlord. Of those respondents that were owner-occupiers with commercial mortgages, all had been able to secure some form of flexibility such as a ‘holiday’ on the interest and/or capital.


Based on the research:

  • The sectors identified as least resilient are: food and beverage; personal and other services; human health and social work; and retail.

This confirms findings from comparative and qualitative analysis, as the majority of these businesses were, at the time of the survey, forced to remain closed, and therefore unable to generate any income. The majority of these businesses are also small businesses with 1-9 employees, which appear to be most affected by this crisis.

A business resilience composite score was calculated that shows the confidence and capability of a business to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. This was based on: (1) its current assets and fiscal resources when taking into account the impact on turnover compared to last year; (2) the current business status; (3) the level of assistance received from the government or other sources; (4) whether the business premises are rented or not; and (5) the estimated period until the business will be forced to cease trading if the situation remains unchanged.