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Outlook for SMEs gloomier than in June

The fourth survey of the “ZHAW Coronavirus SME Panel” shows that small and medium-sized enterprises are increasingly expecting a second wave. It is likely that some companies will be unable to pay back their Covid loans or will only be able to do so in part, and some will have to make employees redundant.

The proportion of companies that considers a renewed spread of the coronavirus (second wave) in the coming 12 months as likely or very likely has risen from 58% to 71% since the survey conducted three months ago. At the same time, the percentage of companies that consider a second lockdown to be likely or very likely has decreased from 19% to 15%. According to the surveyed companies, a second wave does not therefore mean a second lockdown. The researchers surveyed 259 companies between 15 and 21 September, 2020 for the study.

Financial aid

According to their own estimates, almost one in eleven companies that has received a guaranteed loan (Covid loan) will be unlikely to be able to repay it, or will only be able to do so in part. A small majority of the 94 companies that have only repaid the loan in part or have not done so at all want to do this by the end of 2022 at the latest (44%), while a further 38% are aiming for the end of 2025. Eight companies expect that they will (probably) be unable to repay the Covid loan in full. Three of these cases are in the “gastronomy/hotel” sector and two cases from “other economic services”.


It is striking that almost 5% of the companies have already had to announce redundancies. Three months ago, this was the case for just 3% of the companies. An easing of the situation in terms of expected future redundancies was shown in the last survey, but the picture is now becoming slightly gloomier. At present, about three out of ten companies believe that they will have to make redundancies in the coming 12 months.

Mood over several months

The fourth edition of the ZHAW Coronavirus SME Panel survey follows on from the previous one conducted in June 2020. Researchers surveyed SMEs from across German-speaking Switzerland online for the study. Each of the companies had already participated in at least one of the earlier surveys, thus allowing the panel to obtain a picture of how the economic situation of SMEs is developing in the coronavirus crisis. To make the results as current as possible, representatively weighted coverage of all sectors and company sizes was not sought.


  • Andreas Schweizer, ZHAW School of Management and Law, Institute for Financial Management, phone 058 934 78 94, e-mail
  • Jürg Hostettler, ZHAW School of Management and Law, Head of Communications, phone 058 934 66 63, e-mail

Second lockdown viewed as negative or very negative

A second lockdown would, furthermore, negatively impact the vast majority of SMEs, and the tendency for companies to hold this view is increasing. After 78% of companies assessed the potential impact of a second lockdown as negative or very negative in June, this figure increased to 81% in the current survey. What is striking is the increase in those who believe the impact would be “very negative”. Very negative effects are expected the most by representatives from the “gastronomy/hotel” and “art, entertainment and recreation” sectors, with 83% of responses sharing this view. Some 63% of responses from respondents in the area of “other economic services” are also of this opinion.