Coronavirus live blog: Banks back down, home delivery firms are struggling, support for the self-employed

Stay informed on economic impacts, plus the latest advice, resources and best practice.

by Management Today
Last Updated: 26 hours ago


Banks back down

Some UK banks have reassessed their terms for businesses accessing the state-backed credit scheme. 

Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group among others were reprimanded by the government for insisting that business owners personally guarantee state-backed loans, a move which some bank bosses pointed out was standard practice

Now “any director who secures up to £250,000 via the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme will not have to sign a guarantee” reports The Times. However under the scheme government rules state that lenders still need to take some security on loans over £250,000.

Food delivery firms are struggling

You would have thought that food delivery businesses would be at the top of the list of companies doing well out of the coronavirus lockdown. 

But that doesn’t appear to be the case, reports the FT, which claims UberEats, Just Eat and Deliveroo have all seen a drop in home-delivery orders. 

A combination of virus-induced consumer nerves, an uptake in home cooking as well as the loss of “anchor” brands - with the temporary closure of chains like McDonald's and Wagamama - mean some companies have seen orders fall by as many as two-thirds. In London that drop-off has been particularly pronounced as lunchtime office deliveries have all but disappeared. 

The downturn has the potential to leave them exposed, especially Deliveroo which is still waiting for the CMA to vet its funding round with Amazon. 

COVID-19 is challenging companies in ways they’ve never been tested before; even those that looked set to thrive. Last week high-end supermarket delivery chain Ocado temporarily suspended orders after being unable to cope with the excess demand. 


The chancellor announces plan to help self-employed people

Rishi Sunak has unveiled his update to provide financial support to self-employed people struggling during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will pay self-employed people a monthly grant of 80 per cent of their income based on the average of their monthly profits over the last three years. It will be capped at £2,500.

Sunak says that the government has taken steps to “make the scheme deliverable and fair”.

Therefore it is open to people with trading profits of up to £50,000, and to minimise fraud it will only be open to people already in self-employment, i.e. who have a tax-return for 2019. Sunak suggests it will cover 95 per cent of all self-employed people “who make the majority of their earnings from self-employment” in the UK. 

The government will also allow anyone who missed the filing deadline in January four weeks to do so. Sunak says that he hopes to have the scheme fully up and running by June, but will be able to apply for Universal credit.

Where will the government’s aid money come from? 

“This is no ordinary downtown”, writes the BBC economics editor Faisal Islam, yet the government still needs to raise billions of pounds to fund Rishi Sunak’s bumper aid package (see above). 

With the traditional customers for government bonds no longer as willing and with a potentially vastly reduced tax income, where does the government find the cash needed to fulfill its multi-billion promises? 

The Bank of England, says Islam. But it will be a move that goes against the grain of traditional central bank intervention. 

Read the full column here.

Why you should start a virtual pub

In order to help staff feel less isolated during the coronavirus outbreak, London-based ad agency AML Group has opened an online pub. 

Hosted on the Teams video platform, all staff are invited after work to share a drink and catch up with colleagues. Clients are also invited to join the virtual boozer which hosts comedy and live music nights.

“It’s fun, but it’s serious,” says Ian Henderson, AML Group’s CEO. “Working in an agency is about being social, sharing ideas, making new connections. The virtual pub does exactly that, and provides a release at a stressful time.”

While the idea of a virtual pub may be inappropriate for some businesses, ensuring that staff have regular opportunities to catch up and wind down together is more important than ever.  Not only as a way to destress and remain social during isolation, but also because some of the best ideas can often come from off-the-cuff conversations.

Whether it be a communal virtual coffee break, a morning virtual briefing or social activities after work, it’s vital to maintain a sense of community and close collaboration among staff.  

Sunak to offer self-employed update

The chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to reveal his plans to support self-employed people who are unable to work during the coronavirus outbreak.

The BBC reports that the plans are likely to match the 80 per cent salary guarantee the government has given to PAYE employees, although it is thought the Treasury is still looking for ways to prevent fraud, and avoid paying people who do not need help. 

Watch this space for updates throughout the day. 


Life-line thrown for businesses struggling with rents

With many businesses forced to close due to the coronavirus and many more struggling with cash flow, the issue of commercial rent has come into the spotlight. 

Many quarterly rents are due this week, but the Coronavirus Bill, which is currently passing through the Lords, includes protection for businesses against eviction if they are unable to pay their rent over the following three months.  

The state of negotiations between landlords and business tenants is unclear, though there have been responses from both sides in recent days. 

Jonathan Downey, founder of London Union, the operator of Street Feast food, described the three-month respite as “a ceasefire to agree the peace,” speaking on the frantic negotiations between landlords and tenants before today. “This will make an enormous difference to many business owners, saving countless jobs and livelihoods,” he told The Times.

Burger King said today that it will not pay its rent this month in order to pay employees, a move that many other companies will be considering. The chief executive of the fast food chain, Alasdair Murdoch, said that most landlords had been reasonable. 

"We could add three months onto the end of the lease for those people who are unable to pay in the short term at the end of these [current] three months," he told the Today programme. 

Even before the government announcement, some landlords including Argent and Network Rail had offered rent-free periods, but the response has been far from universal. 

“If we go for two quarters with no rent, the real estate sector is going to need a bailout. While retailers have been the worst hit, all commercial tenants, and their landlords in turn, would be squeezed,” said Robbie Duncan, an analyst at Numis. 

Ed Cooke, chief executive of Revo, which represents retail landlords, told The Times that valuations would be affected as would the ability to pay interest on debt. Pension funds also would suffer.

Chris Grigg, chief executive of British Land said: “We are in a strong financial position but there may be other landlords who will struggle. If people aren’t paying rent, there are going to be landlords who are going to struggle.”

Deliveroo to deliver M&S pasta and rice 

Marks & Spencer will use Deliveroo to supply groceries within the next two weeks. 

Customers unable to make it to stores will be able to have essential goods, including pasta, milk, ready meals and other household items delivered from 120 M&S franchise stores free of charge, reports the Retail Gazette

The delivery challenger is also launching its own brand of affordable “Essentials by Deliveroo” including pasta, rice and beans in order to help people living in isolation stay supplied.


Businesses given extra time to file accounts

Firms now have an extra three months to file their accounts after the government struck an agreement with Companies House to extend the penalty deadline for late filing.

The Financial Reporting Council had already agreed a two-month extension for struggling firms, but now bosses will now be able to apply for additional time in order to prioritise steering their business through the coronavirus epidemic

“It is important that our support is not limited to financial assistance,” says business secretary Alok Sharma. The government is also believed to be considering ways to minimise disruption to annual shareholder meetings.



Companies do not have to report gender pay gaps during the coronavirus outbreak

Firms will no longer be fined for failing to report their gender pay gap amid the coronavirus crisis. 

Backed by the women and equalities secretary Liz Truss, the Government and Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commision will suspend enforcement against public and private sector firms who don’t disclose their pay gaps before March 30 and April 4 respectively. Only around 3,000 firms are believed to have done so.

“We recognise that employers across the country are facing unprecedented uncertainty and pressure at this time. Because of this we feel it's only right to suspend enforcement of gender pay gap reporting this year,” says Truss. 

Given today’s climate, it's not surprising that firms may take their eye off the ball temporarily. Equality is important to the long-term health of a business's culture and talent pipeline, but it’s more important that we still have businesses left to make equal.

However this pandemic will go on for a long time, as volatility simmers down and we settle into our new normal, it's vital that leaders don't forget their values. Bosses will need to ensure that they have contingency plans in place for how they plan to continue their D&I efforts. 

Evidence shows that the more diverse a business, the better it is likely to perform - in today’s radically uncertain climate, we’ll need diversity more than ever before.


Which businesses can stay open? 

Britons have been told to “stay at home” for at least three weeks. While it’s not quite the total clampdown that other countries have seen, it’s by far the most stringent restriction on home and business life seen in peacetime Britain. 

But in some cases it’s still unclear what bosses should do. 

Although leaders are urged to encourage their staff to work from home when possible, at present official government advice remains that it is not necessary to close a business or workplace unless government policy changes - or a firm is among those dubbed as non-essential - including hotels, restaurants, electronics retailers - that have been advised to close. 

That in itself is up for interpretation in some cases. Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which issued a profit warning last week, initially said that its Sports Direct and Evans Cycle stores would remain open, claiming that sports equipment is vital for the wellbeing of people cooped up at home. 

Frasers has since U-turned after much criticism, with bosses now claiming stores will close until the government “gives the go-ahead”. 

In contrast, Greggs’ boss Roger Whiteside announced that all of its 2,000 plus bakery chains will close around the country by the end of Tuesday, despite the fact that restaurants serving takeaway food are able to remain open. The move is motivated by a desire to protect staff, and encourage social distancing.

Of course these confusions will iron themselves out as the lockdown goes on, but there will no doubt be more ambiguity over the coming days. Those that can afford to seem to be siding with their staff, while others are trying to stay open simply to survive.



NHSx is asking companies to use tech to battle COVID-19

Any ‘innovators’ who work with the elderly, vulnerable or self-isolating in the community during COVID-19 and have a solution can apply for £25,000 grant to test or develop it. 

The competition, run by the NHS's digital transformation unit NHSx, has criteria including: solution feasibility, company credibility, impact and digital maturity.

Companies will need to complete an expression of interest form and interview. They will then be selected for the grant to test their solution, with the final stage considering further development in order to best benefit people affected by COVID-19. 

The competition focuses on delivering and managing care both in care homes and individual homes; finding healthy and qualified carers; optimising staff in care and voluntary sectors, which includes the recruitment, training and certifying of doctors, nurses and carers; volunteering; and data gaps. 

Mental health support will focus on new services and delivering them, peer-to-peer communities, self-management of mental health and employee wellbeing. 

Applications close on 31 March. 

For more information and to apply, see

Some glimmers of hope

Not every business is staring into an existential abyss. All this working from home is proving a boost to some brands, as our sister title Campaign reports

Pot Noodle, Charlie Bigham and everyone’s favourite pasty-maker Ginsters have all experienced a boost to customer sentiment, according to research from Proquo AI, analysing comments made online by 30,000 consumers in the UK and US. 

The ever-present temptation of daytime TV, meanwhile, has benefitted ITV, with ratings for Lorraine (up 23 per cent year-on-year), This Morning (up 70 per cent) and Loose Women (up 76 per cent) soaring.

While of course welcome news for the aforementioned businesses, it may come as a disappointment for those who believed social isolation would turn our souls to a life of philosophical contemplation, art and the pursuit of higher knowledge.

Chancellor considering ways to aid self-employed workers

The UK government is looking at ways to widen its support for self-employed workers, but it will not be easy. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced widespread and historic measures to pay 80 per cent of the wages of any UK worker unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak. But his plans have been criticised by some for not doing enough to protect the earnings of self-employed people - around 15 per cent of the UK labour force - who under the plan can only access universal credit at an equivalent rate of £95 per week. 

Speaking to Sky News over the weekend, communities secretary Robert Jenrick explained that while the chancellor's plans were under review, using tax payers’ money to refund self-employed workers remains “logistically, operationally difficult” compared to those on PAYE. 

What counts as a self-employed person’s ‘salary’, for example? The amount they earned last month, last year or the amount they expected to earn before June? How would you avoid fraud?

How the government plans to respond to such questions is as of yet unclear. 

As it stands, means testing for universal credit applications would indicate that those with savings or who cohabit with a higher-earning person might not be eligible. 

Middle managers are more important than ever (just don’t overburden them)

“Forget all those surveys that identified resilience, flexibility and agility as critical skills in a fast-changing world. This is the real test,” writes the FT’s management guru Andrew Hill in his latest column. 

While the C-suite will be furiously firefighting or creating coronavirus contingency plans, the burden of day-to-day leadership will fall to middle-managers like never before, Hill highlights. 

Use them - by giving them the digital tools and empathetic freedom to do their job - but don’t abuse them, warns Hill. “Managers need to be aware of digital overload."

Read the full column here (paywall).

Government to pay private sector wages

That's a headline we never expected to write. Yet on Friday afternoon Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak announced that billions of pounds will be paid directly to businesses in order to forestall mass unemployment.  

Here are the key points:

-- Wages will be covered up to 80 per cent for all workers kept on by their employers who would have been laid off because of the coronavirus, up to a monthly total of £2,500. 

-- Applications can be backdated to the beginning of March and will last for three months, although the scheme may be extended if necessary. 

-- The first payments are expected to be made in a matter of weeks. 

The scheme follows the government announcement that bars, restaurants, pubs, cafes and gyms should close on Friday 20 March. Boris Johnson said that people and businesses should not suffer because of government actions. 

Other measures put in place to support businesses include:

-- VAT payments by companies deferred until the end of June

-- Interest-free cash grants to small businesses

-- Interest-free period of loans for smaller businesses extended from six months to 12 months

-- Self-assessment income tax payments for July 2020 deferred for six months

-- All these measures are in addition to the £350bn package previously announced by the chancellor.


This could go on for A YEAR

The latest advice received by the government indicates measures such as social distancing, school closures and travel restrictions are likely to be required for 12 months.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggests that the most plausible way of holding off the pandemic is to alternate between tightening and relaxing extreme measures such as school closures and general social isolation.

This would result in smaller peaks of infection that would be manageable by the NHS. What exactly businesses can do to plan through such a disrupted year remains to be seen.

Check back shortly for an update from the PM and chancellor on measures to support employment.

More support for businesses

Further measures are to be put in place to support workers and businesses throughout the coronavirus outbreak, in addition to the £350bn package announced on Tuesday.

It is widely rumoured that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to put a break on income tax and national insurance contributions.

The move is to encourage businesses to continue paying their staff while having to send less money to the government. The Telegraph has said that the government is effectively picking up the wage bill.

The UK is following the lead of other countries such as Denmark, according to the BBC, where 75 per cent of wage bills will be covered for three months for private companies, if they retain their staff.

In a further attempt to support the economy, The Bank of England has lowered interest rates to 0.1 per cent the lowest since it was established in 1694, 325 years ago.

The Bank said the measures it had taken so far were not going to be enough, and believed "a further package of measures was warranted," reports the BBC.

Who count as “key workers”?

Following its announcement that schools will be closed to all students, except those of “key” workers needed to help keep the country running during the coronavirus outbreak, the government has released the official list of which jobs make the grade.

Unsurprisingly health care workers, those in the emergency services and food delivery drivers are all included; as are utilities workers, local and national government staff and those working in rail, road, air and water freight.

People working in education, providing “key public services” which include journalists, religious staff and mortuary workers, as well as public and national security are also on the list.

View the full list here.

Competition law relaxed

The government will temporarily relax elements of competition law to make it easier for retailers to cooperate in order to keep shelves stocked.

Firms will now be able pool staff and distribution centres, as well as share data on each other's stock levels. The 5p plastic bag charge on online delivery orders has also been removed.

Only behaviours that enable retailers to “work together for the sole purpose of feeding the nation” will be allowed during these “unprecedented circumstances". Any other activity will still have to abide by the 1998 Competition Act.

“By relaxing elements of competition laws temporarily, our retailers can work together on their contingency plans and share the resources they need with each other during these unprecedented circumstances,” says environment secretary George Eustice.


easyJet proposes cutting staff food allowance

The airline industry is among the most severely affected by the pandemic, and there are concerns about the survival of virtually all carriers.

So when easyJet proposes a drastic change to its workers’ terms and conditions, including pay freezes, three months of unpaid leave and the end to free food during shifts, the company can perhaps be forgiven.

Indeed, it is a sign of the times that the unions are not rejecting the deal out of hand.

A lot of employers will be facing a similar situation: how to balance the need to remain solvent when normal operations have collapsed, with the desire to retain as many employees as possible as an act of corporate citizenship and so that the business can recover once (if...) this is all over.

In the final analysis, while a three-month unpaid ‘sabbatical’ may be a tough ask, it’s probably better than redundancy.

Ocado struggles with demand surge, Next reassures, Burberry faces 80 per cent sales drop

The dribble of somewhat depressing trading updates continues. Fashion retailer Next announced it had experienced a 46 per cent drop in in-store sales this week, coupled with a 25 per cent reduction in online orders.

However, CEO Simon Wolfson insists the firm can absorb a 25 per cent drop in sales for the year without breaching banking covenants, which may be relaxed in any case. He also reassures the market that Next has sufficient financial health to mitigate the downturn by cutting dividends, deferring investments and selling property, which could provide more than £800m of cushion in the coming year.

Luxury business Burberry is facing a sterner test, with like-for-like sales down up to 80 per cent in the tail-end of its financial year. The company says it is trying to renegotiate rents and cut discretionary spending to limit costs, though one imagines this will be at best a temporary measure if matters don’t improve.

Life isn’t exactly straightforward for the businesses that are ostensibly ‘winning’ from the outbreak either. Ocado hasn’t lifted its guidance for the financial year (it expects 10-15 per cent revenue growth), despite an enormous upsurge in orders that has forced the online grocer to close its website to new customers.

Even new orders have been delayed until the weekend, as Ocado works on increasing its website capacity to match the “several hundred per cent” rise in demand.

The science behind stockpiling

There are four main reasons why customers panic buy, according to a human behavioural expert.

“Bulk buying is caused by various psychological and environmental cues which throw rational-thinking out of the window”, says Nyenrode Business University’s Ali Fenwick. These are:

1) Survival mode

“Driven by the fact that when we’re in an uncertain or threatening situation we suppress or distort rational decision-making. We are essentially buying to ‘survive’”, says Fenwick.

Although the government promises there will be no disruption to food supply, we don’t know this for sure as most of us have not been in a similar situation before.

2) The Scarcity Effect

“When products become scarce, people perceive them as more valuable. We are more willing to go out and buy, and even pay more, for scarce products. Scarcity drives buying behaviours, even for products we might not actually want - which explains why we can’t find toilet paper anywhere.”

3) Herd behaviour

“The fact that other people are bulk buying creates an immediate urge to do the same. In uncertain situations we tend to follow what other people do or say - especially if they’re an immediate family member or friend.”

4) Sense of control

The global pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty which has resulted in many countries closing their borders and imposing self-isolation. These external constraints create an internal need to exert personal control as a way to feel safe.

“Buying things provides us with a sense of control over our surroundings,” says Fenwick.

Corporate citizenship takes on a new light

In a time of fear and uncertainty, people generally turn to the government for support. But businesses are also doing their bit. Various stories are coming to light about firms providing support for the vulnerable.

Louis Vuitton has turned its production to hand sanitiser to support hospitals, as have gin distilleries, including London’s 58 Gin, which the BBC reported will launch hand atomisers in about three weeks' time after making a batch for a charity, and Lincoln Gin, which is donating sanitiser to vulnerable people. Independant brewer BrewDog is also turning its Aberdeenshire distillery into a sanitiser plant.

Chelsea Football Club meanwhile is providing NHS workers with free hotel accommodation at the Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge, and on a smaller scale Nairn County FC, a Highland League football club, is providing support to its local community by shopping for the self-isolated and walking their dogs. The Scottish club will also be using its social media to promote local businesses that are affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the food and groceries sector, Pret is giving away free drinks for NHS staff and 50 per cent off food, while Morrisons is guaranteeing pay for its workers including those who are off sick.


Government closes schools

On Wednesday evening Boris Johnson announced that schools will close indefinitely from Friday March 20 to all pupils, except those of "key workers" including healthcare workers, delivery drivers and emergency services.

B2B transactions plunge

Supply chain payment firm Tradeshift has reported a 62 per cent week-on-week drop in transactions on its global platform. The data, for the week beginning March 8, shows a 58 per cent decline in cross border activity, and a 66 per cent domestically.

Tradeshift, which handles transactions for over 1.5 million businesses across 190 countries, observed the same pattern three weeks earlier in China, where the coronavirus outbreak began.

Many businesses are experiencing acute cash flow problems, which Tradeshift CEO Christian Lanng says (perhaps unsurprisingly) are exacerbated by late payments.

“Large organisations I’m talking to recognise the importance of keeping supply chains solvent right now. Governments have been proactive in introducing measures to try to ease the pressure. But we can’t afford to leave any stone unturned. There is $1.5 trillion in liquidity sitting trapped and doing nothing in accounts receivable as a result of archaic payment practices,” Lanng says.

Facebook offers $100M support to small businesses

The social media company is to offer cash grants and ad credits to 30,000 small businesses in 30 different countries.

The money is to support businesses from the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

More details are yet to be released, but Facebook has said the money can help with supporting your workforce, rent costs, operational costs and connecting with new customers.

The application process is yet to open, but in the meantime, Facebook is pushing those interested to sign up for updates on the program and to visit their small businesses resource hub.

Sainsbury’s announces elderley shopper measures

Sainsbury’s has become the latest supermarket to take steps to help elderly shoppers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The chain plans to give older and potentially vulnerable customers priority for online shopping deliveries.

In a similar vein to Iceland and Lidl stores in Northern Ireland, Sainbury’s is introducing a dedicated shopping hour for vulnerable shoppers on Thursday March 19. Although the trial is as of yet a one off, departing CEO Mike Coupe hasn’t ruled out extending it.

It also reduced limits on its most popular products, including toilet roll, long-life milk and soap, from five to two. From Wednesday shoppers will only be able to purchase a maximum of three of any product in its stores.

Rules for delivery drivers hours relaxed

In a bid to keep supermarket shelves stocked, transport secretary Grant Schapps has announced plans to relax the restrictions on EU driving hours.

The temporary relaxation will apply to vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care, cleaning products and home paper) as well as pharmaceuticals to supermarket depots, stores and the wider supply chain. It will not extend to customer deliveries.

The changes which will be in place from Thursday March 16 until midnight on April 16, involve upping the daily driving limit from nine to 11 hours, cutting required rest time between shifts from 11 to nine hours and increasing the weekly driving hours from 56 to 60 hours.

Desperate times do really call for desperate measures - supermarkets have been struggling to keep shelves supplied, so anything that potentially improves that will be welcome. But what does this mean for the wellbeing of embattled delivery drivers, who may not feel in this climate that they can push back?

There are some limited protections in the transport department’s plan, and “practical implementation of the temporary relaxation should be through agreement between employers and employees and/or driver representatives.”


Government unveils £330bn coronavirus war chest

The chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that £330bn in guaranteeed loans that will be made available to back businesses affected by the outbreak.

For smaller firms, this will amount to borrowing of £5m, interest-free for the first six months, plus cash grants of up to £10,000 (£25,000 in the case of small hospitality companies) and an extension to the already-announced business rates holiday.

Boris Johnson and Sunak also stated that they have come to an agreement with insurance firms that the latter will pay out to venues, after the government advised people to avoid going out.

Should you postpone your AGM?

Possibly, is the guidance coming from the Chartered Governance Institute, if you’re not able to implement remote meeting features such as live streaming, proxy voting and online shareholder Q&As.

While Downing Street is advising us to avoid gatherings and to work from home where possible, AGMs pose a particular problem, due to legal and regulatory obligations designed to ensure good governance.

“As a general rule, [companies] cannot go very far wrong if they try to maximise the opportunity for shareholders to take part in the meeting,” says Peter Swabey, policy and research director at The Chartered Governance Institute, though it may be necessary to postpone or adjourn the AGM if the situation worsens.

He adds: “A dedicated area on the company website should be established to provide shareholders with the most up-to-date information.”

Amazon to hire 100,000 more workers

In a reminder that not everyone is suffering equally from the COVID-19 outbreak, Amazon has announced plans to hire 100,000 extra staff to cope with additional demand - an increase to its global workforce of around 12 per cent.

Amid the auguries of doom, you can expect the occasional announcement of this variety. Video conferencing companies, tissue paper manufacturers and video game developers will all be enjoying the silver lining of the global lockdown.

In Amazon's case, every pound, dollar or euro not spent on the high street because of quarantine measures (or stuffed in a mattress, for that matter) represents an opportunity. The challenge will be being able to meet the additional demand during a time of unprecedented disruption to supply chains and logistics.


Adland predicts spending blackout

The advertising industry is anticipating at least a 20 per cent contraction as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll by our sister title Campaign.

Just over a third of the 831 professionals in advertising, marketing and communications who responded to the survey said they anticipated a greater than 20 per cent drop in the advertising market over the next six months.

A further 16 per cent of respondents expected the contraction to be ‘around 20 per cent’, while only 8 per cent expected the market to be flat or better.

Ad spending is traditionally seen as a canary in the coalmine for the wider economy, as - wisely or otherwise - businesses tend to cut marketing budgets first when times are hard. Shares in the big three marcomms multinationals - WPP, Omnicom and Publicis - have fallen by 52.8 per cent, 27.2 per cent and 48.2 per cent over the last month.

Image credit: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP via Getty Images


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