To say that 2020 has been a challenging year for small business owners in Lincolnshire, is like saying getting an ice cube through a blast furnace is ‘challenging’. COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown ushered in an economic slowdown in the spring and while the summer has seen growth return to many sections of the local economy, challenges remain. To gain some insight into how Lincolnshire’s small business owners have weathered the COVID-19 storm, we caught up with Janice Smith, founder of Coversure Grantham and asked for her reflections on this tumultuous year and her thoughts on what 2021 may hold.
How has business been since we’ve come out of lockdown? Have you seen a rise in activity, and if so in which sectors?
Extremely busy! There’s been a rise in activity which has not always been profitable as a lot of small business have been making changes to their cover, for example public hire/private hire taxi drivers reducing cover for the interim period. But we have also seen new start-up businesses seeking things like courier insurance, so new business has been coming our way.
Has COVID changed the way you/your customers work? What does the ‘new normal’ look like for Coversure Grantham? Seeing as more people are working from home have you seen changes in the type of policies customers are seeking?
At Grantham we have not experienced any issues with our current clients. We’ve been fortunate in that we have lost very few clients due to business closures. We’ve seen some reductions in cover or reductions in vehicle fleet sizes, but on the whole people seem to be weathering the storm quite well. I do feel that the next six months may see more changes, but we’ll have to wait and see.
There’s been a lot of talk in the press about people moving from the south east to places like Grantham – the town’s seen a 4% rise in prices since July 2019. Have you seen more activity in the property insurance sector?
We have seen a slight increase in property owner enquiries, but no particular rise in changes of address in the private household market as yet, but then the moving process does take time to go through.
Insurance, like advertising, is a good barometer of the state of economy. What’s the consensus of opinion on the immediate future of the Lincolnshire economy? Are local businesspeople optimistic?
They are all trying very hard to continue in these difficult circumstances by adapting to the new rules and regulations and restraints for working. I’ve been impressed with the way everyone’s managed and how the business community has pulled together.
Commercial vehicle insurance is a big part of your business and that’s a market that’s changed rapidly in the last few years thanks to the death of diesels and the rise of electric vehicles. Are you seeing taxi drivers and fleet owners looking for EV cover?
No to be honest. No enquiries of that nature as yet, but in the current economic climate we fully expect vehicles to be kept until it is absolutely necessary to replace them so that is something we may see in the next few years
Brexit is rarely far from the news at the moment as the question of deal/no-deal rears its head again. Lincolnshire voted overwhelmingly in favour of leave, yet given its agriculture, haulage and food processing its exposure to the outcome couldn’t be higher. Do you think it will be a success come what may?
I am sure that whatever the outcome, we will do our best to have a positive approach. Its obviously of huge significance to the region given things like agriculture, but whatever happens I’m sure we’ll make it work.
What are your predictions/hopes for 2021 for both your business and for the area?
Whilst we have always been a ‘door open’ local business and our clients have been extremely adaptable and understanding about restrictions over coming in, it would be good to get back to normality in 2021. I’d love to see us offering the face-to-face insurance broking service we have traditionally provided. However, if that is not possible, I am sure we will remain successful and we’ll be there for people all the same.
Thank you, Janice. Good luck for the rest of the year.
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