There was no help and will not be: how small business is experiencing the second wave of the crisis
8 October , 12:48
The number of new cases of coronavirus infection in Russia continues to grow.

And although the authorities doubt that there will be a second wave in Russia, and new strict restrictions are not included in the plans of the country's leadership, entrepreneurs, and together with them Novye Izvestia, began to wonder whether business will be able to survive the new wave of the pandemic?

Lyudmila Butuzova

According to a joint study by Inc. and Omnibus agencies, 34% of Russian entrepreneurs doubt this. At the same time, most of the survey participants expressed confidence in the resilience of their business: 25% believe that their company will definitely survive the second wave, and 41% believe this is the most likely.

Business in the "pencil case"

“Nobody asked me,” says Nina Gladysheva (surname changed at her request), the owner of the shopping “pencil box” near the Ryazansky Prospekt metro station, to the correspondent of Novye Izvestia. - At my checkout, I see that I won't survive the second wave, I haven't gotten out of the first one yet.

Nina has been trading at the metro for 6 years. Hot selling: tights, scarves, gloves, socks. More in her "pencil case" measuring 1.5x2.5 meters does not fit. Now I stuck out into the street with two hangers. On hangers - jackets at a bargain price. Two down jackets - 3 thousand each, insulated Alaska of Polish origin - one and a half each. On the "Gardener" exactly the same wholesale is twice as expensive. Why is Nina's cheap?

- Not mine, - she says. - A friend went bankrupt, shoved the remnants at familiar points. If only for how much to sell - she has an open loan for one and a half million. The apartment is under threat. Here, I help, with the risk for my own business...

There really is a risk - either from around one corner, then because of another, inspectors appear, for "not supplied" goods, and even past the cash register, the entrepreneur faces a fine of up to 500 thousand rubles. Nina has a trained eye - at the slightest threat, she pulls the hangers in and covers them with their rags. He knows these tricks like the back of his hand.

“I pay for loyalty,” Nina says reluctantly. - How much? When like - 3 thousand, 5 thousand. Today they approached, but I didn't have a ruble at the cash desk, she said that I would give it back next time.

Something I doubt that next time she will have more in the box office. For two hours, while I was portraying a customer, then trying on scarves, then praising jackets, only five people approached the "pencil case", only one bought gloves for 200 rubles. Nina says that she traded 12 thousand yesterday, and 5 thousand a day earlier. The jackets look (and this can be seen from the captured sleeves), but are not tempted.

“People are holding back their money,” says Nina. “If I were in their place, I would also do so, because it is completely unknown what lies ahead. Tomorrow they will be locked up for isolation, and again, no one knows how long, without a salary. On the contrary, I have a Dixie, every day I see that they first of all began to buy flour, buckwheat, sugar. Personally, I have nothing to stock up on. Four months were closed, three we are trading. I somehow raised 200 thousand to pay the rent for the downtime, now I am again in debt.

"Pencil case" my interlocutor rents from the city. It’s interesting: when small business in Moscow was shut down, the mayor’s office promised to reduce rental rates to almost zero in order to support it. But, according to Nina, there were no discounts during the epidemic.

Empty chores

To help small businesses, the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation opened a hotline on March 16: its operators (as stated on the website of the Small Business of Moscow, on the basis of which the call center operates) will help “promptly resolve issues arising from representatives of the business sector amid the general unstable global economic situation resulting from the spread of the coronavirus".

Nina Gladysheva phoned in April, when there was no more income at all, and her rent bill was 3.75 sq. m came as if nothing had happened.

- The phone was picked up quickly, the polite girl answered. I told her that we had problems paying rent. The girl switched me to the "Business Support Headquarters". There was also a sympathetic woman there: after listening to me, she advised me to write a letter to my landlord and refer to specific decrees of Sobyanin and Mishustin. She dictated the wording: "I ask you to consider the possibility of reducing or postponing the rent under the agreement." I wrote the letter, there is still no answer. They said so: "the final decision will still be up to the landlord, whether he will consider this opportunity or not, is unknown." I called the hotline two more times. They were not so polite anymore. They said that I can refuse the lease if I have nothing to pay, but the debt will still be collected from me later. I cannot refuse to rent, this point is my only workplace, I hold onto it with my teeth. I sold my father's stamps, rare, our grandfather started collecting. I got out. But if they shut us down again, I don’t know how to continue living.

Alena M. (sells jewelry in the shopping center "City on Ryazanka": I will say for myself personally, in 2020 I have to survive - I have never harbored illusions about support from the state, but 2020 showed that small business will actually be the first victim in I hope for communication in an entrepreneurial chat, as an opportunity to get advice on "survival" - a collective mind, eh ... There is nowhere else to freely express my opinion - I was deprived of the opportunity to go to a rally or at least a single picket. this "telephone dialogue" on the hotline. But can you imagine what they offered me? Fill out the questionnaire and talk to a psychologist.

Oleg Novikov, co-owner of one of the Moscow photography service companies: “For me, the most unpleasant thing was that some of our employees were building conspiracy theories, that we were holding back money and sitting. But in fact, we sold everything we could to pay at least for the months worked. We ourselves are in debt, a partner has sold the car, and I have a parking space. About 30 percent of employees react humbly, support, do not ask for money and are even ready to support themselves. 70 percent react negatively - to the extent that they say that "we have nothing to eat, we have nothing to live on, so we were promised and we do not care further." But this is adequate when they say this to you on TV. But they always blame those they see. Putin is far away, but we are current employers. And now our people complain about the existing employers, who, through no fault of their own, were left on the beans, everywhere - from the hotline of the mayor's office to the Kremlin's website, and, roughly speaking, they mucked us with checks.

“There is as much sense from these“ lines ”as from advice on the Internet”, - says Viktor Khodoshko, owner of a small bar in the SEAD. - In my news feed, one economist wrote all the time: “The most important thing in this situation is not to panic. If antidepressants help you to calm down - buy them, if prayers - boldly read the Bible. " I ate half a pharmacy and ate a bible, the result is the same - I fired three employees out of five, left the watchman and the cook part-time. The salary of the dismissed was partially paid with food from the kitchen. People are happy about this, they said that as soon as everything is restored, they will return the money for food. All of me are conscious, they understand that in order to give the company a chance to survive and not lose a job at all, you need to try to wait it out. Now I myself work for a waiter, for a supplier, for a driver, and for a loader - for all this I pay myself 12 thousand rubles. In July, we were allowed to open, but after three months our income fell by 40% - just plug the holes until they were closed again.

Trouble card

Viktor Khodoshko is one of the old acquaintances of "NI", the hero of our publication on the problems of small businesses during the coronavirus epidemic. It was he who was terribly angry with the Prime Minister, who "forbade" the dismissal of employees - "if there is no income, then how will I pay people?" and was one of the first to sign Danila Makhnitsky's petition on Change.org for the introduction of urgent measures to support small and medium-sized businesses. Recall that Danil Makhnitsky is a sociologist, a former employee of the project office of the Ministry of Finance of Russia, the author of the largest telegram channel about the Russian civil service, the author of a petition for zeroing insurance premiums and property taxes for small and medium-sized businesses. The petition was signed by over 280 thousand people. No zeroing, of course, happened, but Putin gave a deferral to pay taxes and proposed to reduce the rate of insurance premiums from 30% to 15% for small and medium-sized businesses.

Isn't that enough?

“Certainly not enough,” Makhnitsky said to NI. - What is postponement? This means that tax payments are accumulating, and they still have to be paid, but in six months. This is what people are faced with now, and this is a double blow to business: old debts have not been paid and new ones have already been accumulated. The question of where to get this money remains open. And money for the abolition of tax payments is, for example, in the National Welfare Fund (NWF), but the budgetary rule does not allow them to be used. When we calculated the economic measures for the petition, we realized that they would cost about 1.5 trillion rubles. This is undoubtedly a lot of money, but you need to understand that at the time the petition was drawn up, the anti-crisis fund in the NWF was almost 9 trillion rubles, and now, due to the strengthening of the dollar, it is actually 13 trillion rubles. At least 10% of the anti-crisis fund could be spent on supporting small and medium-sized businesses. Those who went bankrupt could be helped by some kind of targeted support. Those who have not yet gone bankrupt could be rescued by concrete measures, for example, like the Moscow government, which gives a discount on the rent of city property, reduces the trade tax. This can help, because there are similar problems throughout the country.

On April 13, Makhnitsky launched an interactive Map of Russian Business in Distress. “With the help of this map, we want to show the scale of the disaster and draw the attention of the authorities to the problem of the death of small, medium and large businesses. If you have nothing to pay salaries to your employees, have nothing to pay for rent and loan obligations, if you are on the verge of bankruptcy - do not be silent, tell us about your situation, ”the project website says.

-We have made a tagging system, and the three most common problems are closures for the "vacation" period, a critical drop in demand and, as a result, lack of money for rent or salary payments. The dynamics are indicative - a very serious problem in the industry, says Makhnitsky. Literally two days after the launch of the card, there were already more than 2 thousand businesses on it, more than 20 thousand people who are on the verge of dismissal. The prospects are not at all bright. Many people speak openly about bankruptcy. At the same time, on the map we can find both the points of self-employed, small individual entrepreneurs, who have one, two or three employees, and, for example, large federal chains, such as “5 pockets,” the Salamader shoe network, that is, the problem is really common for almost all market participants. The stories on the portal are very similar: a critical drop in demand due to the pandemic, lack of revenue and, accordingly, money for salaries and rent. A lot of people who have already gone bankrupt write to me. These are mainly individual entrepreneurs and self-employed. Those who had some kind of inventory, a little fat, in the words of the president, are still holding on. While holding on. It is possible to show the scale, but, of course, no decisions were made based on the map and the petition. The top officials of the state have no understanding of why they should support small and medium-sized businesses, they do not see value in it . Lobbyism also plays a role here. When you sit in the Ministry of Finance, and everyone is asking you for money, it is obvious that the first to receive money are those who have very strong GR departments, competent lawmakers, and small and medium-sized businesses that are not consolidated and have no point of targeted impact , remains on the sidelines of this story.

complaint book

What small entrepreneurs write about in their chat "For Business Protection"

Olga : “I will definitely not return to SP! I closed it on May 6, now I am at the Employment Center, at first I was assigned an allowance for 3 months, until August 13. Then I wanted to apply for self-employment, but the benefit was extended until September 30. And from August 6, everything in our city was closed again. So I think, does it make sense to register? Although everything is so good in the media, the state is soooo helping, it is simply bombing the business with help. Voted for the initiative, what to fear, nothing to lose "

Elena Zinina: “Clothing retail. I didn't have much hope. When they opened in July, I was even surprised that there are sales. Many have learned to buy online from large marketplaces. At first, there was probably an effect: “Oh! It's great that it opened offline! Everything is as before! Let's go in! " But now it is over".

Nina: “In July, we also had a splash, we even thought that everything was ok and would trample. But this was an accumulated demand for a long period in a short time".

Inna Antey: “It's the same in my furniture. They only sold in July, but if we consider that three months before that zero and plus rent, then not so much. August was almost zero, and September was even worse. But the tenant assures that there is a lot of traffic on the meter and requires a 100% rent payment”.

Yulia: “The retail sales of fabrics fell very much. Enough to pay rent and salaries to sellers. All. Just a penny in turnover😏 Prices for a new product, together with the dollar, are growing before our eyes, but people do not have wages. Everyone is waiting for quarantine and therefore they are holding back their money".

Yulia Markovina: Will we be closed again? I can not imagine. They book my services and premises for the fall, and almost everyone asks what will happen if they close it again. People are very afraid. I was in prison for 4 months without the opportunity to work. Now there is a difficult recovery and debts, debts. Another shutdown will kill my business.

Pollet Korolevna : “In their opinion, we pay no taxes and therefore they do not care about our work. They just don't know what to do with us. After all, leaving us without work is doomed to poverty, let's go then attack the exchange, social services. Working individual entrepreneurs will request indexation of pensions if they close. It's easier to leave us alone and not interfere. But, unfortunately, it is not clear what the thinking people are sitting there, so their actions are not predictable".

From an interview with Novye Izvestia with Danila Makhnitsky:

- It is now clear that the state did not draw any conclusions from the first wave of the epidemic. We recently completed a survey of 669 entrepreneurs participating in a business map in distress. The sample turned out to be quite representative. The respondents were from a wide variety of regions and industries.

Key takeaways:

1) 85.3% of businesses applied for government support

2) 66.7% of all those who applied to the tax office did not receive a ruble

3) 14.7% of businesses will close, of which 74.4% would have climbed out upon receiving the declared payments

4) 87% of the respondents assessed negatively the quality of informing businesses about support measures.

The numbers confirmed the already understandable problems. Those who could have been saved were not saved. Who could be helped with information - did not help. On what it was possible to draw a beautiful picture before the September elections - they painted.

And yet it is inspiring that the majority - 85% of entrepreneurs! - one way or another they are going to continue their activities. Many of those who have gone bust have created something new or gone into e-commerce. In general, this whole crisis is pushing small businesses to go online, which we are actively promoting - we held a special seminar with the Ozon platform.

And about what needs to be done globally. Well, here the answer is generally simple - small businesses need to unite and defend their interests themselves: publicly and loudly. Regarding the latter, I hope that I have enough strength and resources to implement such a union. Now I am actively working on this.

Inna Baranovskaya, PhD in Sociology, head of the non-commercial partnership "Social allowance", Moscow, commented to Novye Izvestia on the situation:

- A few figures from colleagues - the developer of software for business management "Megaplan". According to their October survey, among 1,284 bosses and owners of SMEs, 57% of Russian entrepreneurs admitted that their personal income fell due to the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, 6% of respondents said that their profits against the background of the crisis, on the contrary, increased.

23.9% of respondents said that they significantly increased the expenses for office needs in their company after coming out of self-isolation, the opposite is the case for 13.7% of respondents - on the contrary, they had to cut costs. Due to the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, 35.9% of respondents were forced to move to an office with a lower rent, and 9.5% admitted that they gave up the office in order to save money. Half of the respondents (49.6%) were more fortunate - the landlord agreed to accommodate entrepreneurs and reduced the cost of rent. 4.9% said they managed to move to a more expensive office. More than a third of the participants in the study (34.2%) said that their company had reduced the salaries of line employees. 41.5% of entrepreneurs were able to save the earnings of their employees, 14.8% admitted that they had to part with some colleagues. Only 9.5% said that, on the contrary, they had increased the salaries of some workers. 58.8% of respondents have deprived their employees of bonuses and allowances amid the crisis. 42.6% of entrepreneurs who participated in the study said that they had to borrow money to support the business. Almost half of the study participants (47.9%) reduced social security spending after coming out of the pandemic, 13% abandoned social projects altogether, and 10.9% allowed themselves to increase their social responsibility costs. 28.2% stated that the costs in this area have not changed.

What does this mean? “The coronavirus crisis has changed the balance of power in business, and many entrepreneurs had to radically revise the costs of its development and support, the pandemic has positively affected a very small number of enterprises.

If the situation with coronavirus infection repeats in the fall, then whole industries will face a total redistribution. Survivors will face the need to raise prices for their services or work results, as they will have to radically raise the level of wages to hire Russians. Our financial analysts believe that 90% of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs simply will not survive the second wave of coronavirus if it drags on for more than two weeks. As a result, millions of people working in small industries will find themselves without money, in rented apartments with open loans and small children in their arms.

Many small and medium-sized business owners still believe that the country's government and city halls will do everything not only to save the population of Russia, but also to protect private entrepreneurs from the consequences of the pandemic. Today, social networks are full of appeals to the highest ranks, in which individual entrepreneurs ask government officials to leave their country villas and luxurious offices, and come to the places to talk to people in financial ruin.

More and more often accusations of indecision, lack of courage and lack of understanding of the needs of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs are being blamed on the management apparatus. And although many individual entrepreneurs no longer believe that they will survive in this meat grinder, they do not stop urging officials to radically change their behavior. After all, the survival of entrepreneurs in Russia depends on it, who for a long time have created millions of jobs in the country, paid taxes and raised the economy of our state on their own.

Let me remind you that quarantine restrictions (they, however, were called the same non-working day regime) at the national level, Putin introduced on March 30, when only 320 cases of infection were detected in Russia. Now everything is different. The introduction of specific restrictions in the spring became the prerogative of the regional authorities, and federal officials only persuade people to wear masks and frankly admit that they do not want to and cannot allow new self-isolation. The transition to more stringent restrictive measures is hindered by the unwillingness to take responsibility for the next shutdown of the economy and at least partially compensate for the losses to those who will be left without income because of this. But the authorities also cannot say "we are not introducing a self-isolation regime because we have no money for it." Anyone can go to the Ministry of Finance's website in the section dedicated to the National Welfare Fund and make sure that there is money. But the authorities are not going to spend them on a new package of support measures for business and the population to replace the one that expired on October 1. It is much cheaper to declare, like Golikova, that the sick themselves are to blame for the infection, because they did not wear a mask.

Therefore, I would advise you not to pin special hopes on officials and the government. Any crisis is an opportunity to reconsider your price on the labor market ”. Absolutely any field of activity has intersections: so think about what else you can or what you can learn in the shortest possible time. The pandemic will end sooner or later. Let's not lose heart. Let us hope for the best.