A recent survey carried out by Baltic Creative Community Interest Company (CIC) amongst its tenants has revealed the stark reality being faced by some of Liverpool’s digital and creative businesses, and the brave steps they are taking to innovate and survive.
Conducted with 47 of the CIC’s tenants, from developments including Creative Campus, Northern Lights and Digital House, the survey revealed that nearly 80% of the businesses have seen their incomes negatively impacted to some degree since the UK lockdown began. Of that 80%, 20% have received no income at all since March 2020.
Like the majority of sectors, digital and creative businesses are having to adapt to a new way of working in order to maintain a level of trade throughout the lockdown. By the end of April, 55% of Baltic Creative’s tenants had already diversified their product and service offerings in order to survive, with the majority of employees now successfully working from home.
One company that has moved to remote working is long-standing tenant, As Creatives which normally takes its creative education workshops into schools, but has now launched a new online portal, As Creatives Connect, to help children to learn in a fun way from home.
Two of Baltic Creative’s café partners, Chapters of Us and The Baltic Roastery have also diversified their offerings. No longer able to trade from its usual space, the team at Chapters of Us has set up a new online ordering service with options including brunch boxes and cocktail making kits available for home delivery. While The Baltic Roastery has been continually roasting coffee and has seen its online sale of its signature beans explode.
Further positives from the survey also showed that over 95% of the businesses have not had to make any redundancies, with 45% taking advantage of the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
Commenting on the current situation, Mark Lawler, MD of Baltic Creative CIC, said: “There’s no shying away from the fact that it is a remarkably difficult time and every single one of our tenants is facing their own unique set of circumstances. For our hospitality occupiers, it is particularly tough, and we are working hard behind the scenes to try and provide support and guidance so that as many businesses as possible can make it through this period.
“We have been signposting tenants to resources that can help them with both practical and financial support, as well hosting regular online socials and wellbeing events so that they can still feel connected and a little less isolated during this period. As a CIC, retaining that sense of community is really important to us and it’s one of the key aspects that has made Baltic Creative spaces so popular and unique over the years – we never want to lose that.”
The CIC model means that Baltic Creative reinvests all its profits back into property, tenants or the sector and keeps rents affordable for digital and creative businesses.
“We are facing challenges just like everyone else but before this crisis began, Liverpool City Region’s digital and creative sector was growing at a rate of 2.5 times faster than other sectors, so we have confidence that we will bounce back. Over 95% of our tenants have said that they feel that they are getting enough guidance and support from us so hopefully this will stand us all in good stead to weather the storm together,” said Mark.
Tenant at Baltic Creative’s Northern Lights scheme, Nathan Connolly, publishing director at Dead Ink Books, said: “Throughout all of this, where there has been a lot of uncertainty, Baltic Creative has been exceptional in communicating clearly and offering support where they can.
“They have really been a constant and that has helped us get through this period when we’ve faced so much confusion from elsewhere. We know this situation must have been really hard for Baltic Creative too, and we’re greatly appreciative to them for thinking of the tenants throughout and doing what they can to help.”
Creative and digital businesses can find additional support and resources for navigating the COVID-19 crisis via the Baltic Creative website.