• North East businesses report that pandemic sparked wave of creative thinking, with three fifths saying it made them more innovative
  • Two thirds made changes to their business as a result of Covid-19
  • A further seven in ten will keep their ‘pandemic pivots’ as they look to boost profits

Covid-19 prompted a wave of innovation as businesses pivoted their operations to survive, according to a Lloyds Bank survey.

More than six in ten (61%) North East businesses said the pandemic forced them to be more creative and innovative in finding new areas of growth.

Almost two thirds (65%) have made changes to their business since the start of the pandemic, such as expanding their online offering (26%) or making changes to their operations (22%).

Crucially, a significant number of businesses are benefiting from the pivots, with seven in ten (71%) saying that they will keep their changes in the long term. And it is already paying dividends with more than two-fifths (43%) of firms saying that their operational changes have boosted revenues and profits.

Case study

Stockton-on-Tees-based printing company AlphaGraphics pivoted its business during the pandemic. Previously, AlphaGraphics was solely focused on B2B clients and provided various marketing services as well as printing, display and mailing services. The success of this business model resulted in an average annual turnover of £8.5million.

When the pandemic struck, the business saw its operations stall as demand dropped. To secure the future of the business, AlphaGraphics launched a new e-commerce business on the Shopify platform, targeting commercial and corporate clients looking for tailored social distancing signs.

Andrew Dalton, managing director of AlphaGraphics, said: “With our traditional B2B offering on hold, we knew we had to diversify and so we launched our e-commerce offering within two weeks of lockdown being announced. Pivoting in this way allowed us to keep operating and enabled us to emerge from the pandemic in good shape and ready to start preparing for our future.

“The support from Lloyds Bank was invaluable. It meant our overheads were paid and allowed us to quickly pick-up operations again once restrictions allowed.”

Steve Harris, Regional Director for the North East at Lloyds Bank said: “To overcome the challenges of the past 18 months, businesses across the North East have had to show tremendous resilience. With normal trading grinding to a halt for many, some firms had to make permanent changes to stay afloat.

“The innovation shown by businesses across the region has been incredible to see, but we know this period has been exceptionally difficult for many. We will continue to support firms across the North East through the coming months and help them prosper as normal trading resumes.”

The UK and sector picture

Across the UK half of businesses (48%) said that the pandemic had forced them to be more innovative and 56% made changes to their operations as a result. The most common changes included selling more online (21%) and adapting shift patterns (20%).

Manufacturers were most likely to make changes to their operating patterns (28% vs 20% UK average) and to expand the products they offered (22% vs 17%). Retail was the top sector for expanding online offerings (25% vs 21% UK average), buoyed by the shift to online consumer spending.