Hairdresser and restaurant cancellations surge after rise in Covid-19 cases

Firms such as hairdressers and restaurants saw cancellations soar last month as potential customers stayed at home amid the accelerating spread of Covid-19.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also highlighted a jump in the number of people working from home after the Government changed guidance in December.

The statistics body said on Thursday that 16% of companies reported “an increase in cancellations from customers over the last month”.

This figure lifted sharply for services companies, including hairdressers and beauty, which saw a 50% increase in cancelled bookings.

Accommodation and food service businesses meanwhile saw a 45% increase in cancellations.

It comes after pubs and restaurants reported a sharp increase in cancellations after the Prime Minister announced Plan B restrictions, including guidance for people to work from home where possible, in December.

The change in guidance resulted in 21% of adults working exclusively from home during the three weeks to January 3, rising from 14% over the previous period.

The data also revealed continued pressure on worker numbers, with 15% of firms reporting staff shortages in late December.

This figure was significantly higher, at 35%, for businesses with 10 or more employees and particularly stark in the accommodation and services sector, where 37% of firms saw shortages.

Elsewhere, more than a third of businesses also reported a rise in the price of materials, goods and services compared with normal expectations.

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