More than 31 million Brits are keen to support small businesses this Christmas as they worry their local shops could go bust, according to BT.

BT’s survey of 2,000 consumers found that 58% are making a conscious effort to help small businesses more because of the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has had on trading this year.

Almost two-third of those polled fear their local high street won’t survive the pandemic without their support. BT found that 66% are increasingly worried about the impact on their community if local, independent shops are lost, with nearly 60% saying their community depends on local businesses.

Nearly half (48%) of those surveyed said small businesses play a key role in supporting local people, 45% said they were important in sustaining the economy, and 42% agreed that they provide vital employment.

Just over half (51%) said concerns over contracting Covid-19 have made them reluctant to visit shops, reinforcing the need to have a strong online presence to survive the disruption, the survey suggested.

Pete Oliver, managing director for SME at BT Enterprise, said: “The country’s small businesses have undoubtedly been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with national and local lockdowns severely impacting their ability to trade. It’s really heartening to see that communities across the UK are coming out in force to support local, independent businesses when Christmas shopping, as these small firms rely heavily on the festive period to generate the lion’s share of their profits.

“Although, with over 10 million Brits preferring to do all their Christmas shopping with small businesses online, it’s clear that small businesses need to adapt by moving online or risk being left behind. That’s why we launched our Small Business Support Scheme - to boost the connectivity, cashflow and confidence of small businesses through faster broadband, digital payments and digital skills, among other forms of assistance.”