Small business operators in the hospitality and leisure sectors are three times more concerned about covid-19 than Brexit, according to research by Hitachi Capital Business Finance.

A study of 1,107 national small business leaders, across all sectors, on what they thought their biggest barriers to growth was in the next six months showed more than half (51%) cited the direct impact of covid-19 on their operations.

By comparison, a quarter (25%) were concerned about Brexit and its impact on their business. However, the proportion of leaders in the hospitality and leisure sphere that were scaling back operations this quarter rose to 48%, with 81% citing covid-19 as their main barrier to growth – three times the proportion concerned about Brexit (23%).

The research also discovered the proportion of all businesses either contracting or struggling to survive remains high at 27%, up from 15% pre-coronavirus.

Hitachi Capital Business Finance head of insight Joanna Morris said: “The covid-19 pandemic changed every aspect of our lives in 2020. Some sectors are worse affected than others. Confidence in the second quarter dropped to the lowest levels we have ever seen, and while the bounce back has been strong, confidence levels remain a long way below where they were pre-covid.

Before the pandemic, Brexit was front-of-mind for the majority of business owners. As we enter our second national lockdown closer to the deadline, we are no further along with plans to comply with the changes, minimise any negative impacts and capitalise on the positives. This loss of momentum is a concern.”