High street dentists, opticians and independent pharmacies have been badly affected by the pandemic, a fresh report has revealed.
In a report titled Small Business, The Big Picture, insurer AXA, said small and medium sized-retail businesses were in a strong position with hopes for a healthy recovery from lockdowns.
However, health businesses have struggled with falling turnover as independent dentists, opticians and pharmacies marked a 12 per cent decline in income.
Pharmacies came up against store closures and a rise in wholesale drug prices last year.
Businesses also had to hire loco staff for pricy rates when pharmacy staff, working on the front line, had to stay at home after catching coronavirus.
Changes were made last year to how pharmacies were paid, so payment was connected to the delivery of services and not dispensing medicines.
Just under two thirds (61 per cent) of businesses surveyed reported a decline in turnover over the last 12 months.
There was a huge drop in the number of health and pharmaceuticals opening, with a fall of around 20,000, accounting for an almost 40 per cent drop year-on-year.
Claudio Gienal, CEO of AXA UK and Ireland, said: “While many small retailers have managed to adapt to the challenges faced by the pandemic by introducing new products and have been able to deploy digital solutions for some on the high street, this has not been possible.
“What might be surprising to some, during a global health crisis, the health sector has struggled.”
Gienal added: “The fall in turnover could be partly due to the temporary closure of dentists and opticians during the first lockdown. At the height of the pandemic, pharmacies also faced higher costs of locum cover if a staff member had to go into isolation as well as a global rise in wholesale drug prices in 2020.
“However, we also saw many businesses successfully adapt to these unique challenges and, as restrictions continue to ease, we believe there will be a growing need for their specialist services within the local communities they serve.”