7 July 2020
Firms are cutting costs and halting investments but keeping their workers
The Polish-Swiss Chamber of Commerce together with other bilateral chambers in the International Group of Chambers of Commerce (IGCC) carried out a survey among Polish and foreign firms concerning the impact of Covid-19 on business activity in Poland. Fieldwork was conducted between 10 and 24 June. Results were compared with a similar study carried out by the French-Polish Chamber of Commerce (CCIFP) when the first restrictions were implemented. The data, gathered as businesses adapted to lockdown, highlights the biggest problems encountered by firms in the last three months, emphasising the concerns brought to light in the earlier survey.
Four out of five of firms expect worse-than-planned financial results at the end of this year, according to a survey carried out by bilateral chambers of commerce in Poland. Nearly 90% have already reported a decrease in sales. A return to pre-pandemic levels will be possible at the earliest within the next six to 12 months, although some industries expect recession to last into 2021. In most cases, firms’ bankruptcy-prevention strategies are based on cost cutting (mainly those unrelated to their core business); laying off employees is seen as a mean of last resort.
Companies face cancelled orders but payments from customers are not being delayed
The biggest problem that entrepreneurs faced over the past three months has been the cancellation of orders by customers (51% of responses). Concerns voiced by the majority of firms in the March survey, in which 50% of respondents predicted that orders will be cancelled, have proved true. Delayed payments from customers or delayed execution of orders ultimately affected fewer companies than predicted in the first survey (27% and 29% of responses in June, compared to 56% and 41% in March respectively). Production output, on the other hand, fell on a slightly larger scale than expected (28% of indications in June vs 21% in March).
As 38% of respondents pointed out, travel restrictions and closed borders represented a major obstacle for businesses, especially for companies operating across multiple markets. This has led to the necessity of remote management of companies, and created problems with document flow, such as the signing of physical documents or contracts.
The situation was better than expected in the logistics sector. Nearly half of the respondents did not report experiencing a significant negative impact of Covid-19, a result nearly 10% better than in early March. Only one in three companies reported problems with the delivery of products from Polish and/or foreign suppliers. Issues with the transport of goods inside the country or associated shortages in inventories occurred in only 10% of companies.
Companies will be cutting costs at least until the end of the year
As a consequence of the drop in sales, companies have taken measures to reduce expenses and operating costs to maintain liquidity.
52% of companies have already reduced expenses unrelated to their core business, in areas such as marketing, advertising or training, and nearly 40% will continue to do so in the coming months. The scale of these cuts is significant, as in nearly two-thirds of the cases they amounted to more than 50% of the original budgets for these activities.
Other measures taken by companies are: recruitment freeze (45% of responses); salary-increase freeze (37%) and bonus freeze (28%). Salaries were reduced in 29% of companies (usually by between 5-20%); however, only 17% of them plan to keep those reductions in the following months.
Companies are trying to protect existing jobs at all costs and, despite the decline in turnover, with redundancies seen as a last resort. So far, 15% of companies have declared laying off between 2-10% of their employees.
Nearly half of the firms surveyed (48%) have benefited from the ‘anti-crisis shield’ measures offered by the Polish government. 43% of those firms positively assessed the aid granted; however, 54% said that the proposed solutions didn’t meet their expectations. Their main criticisms concerned complicated procedures, unclear rules and long waits for decisions.
The survey Surviving Covid-19:The Impact of the Pandemic on Companies’ Business Activity in Poland was conducted by the French-Polish Chamber of Commerce among member companies of bilateral chambers of commerce in the IGCC (International Group of Chambers of Commerce). Respondents were CEOs, presidents, executive directors and board members. The results are based on questionnaires completed by 189 companies operating in Poland, 26% of which were Polish, 16% German, 14% French, 7% American, 6% Swiss, 5% Austrian; and 26% have the majority capital from various other countries. Nearly half of the respondents represented companies employing up to 50 people, 32% were medium-sized enterprises (51-500 employees) and 19% were companies employing over 500 people. Most respondents came from the following sectors: manufacturing industry (13%), construction & real estate (13%), business services (12%), consulting (8%), IT services and telecoms (7%) and trade and distribution (6%).
International Group of Chambers of Commerce (IGCC) www.inwestycjezagraniczne.com
| Results of the survey