It's been a challenging time for businesses amid the impact of Coronavirus restrictions but this has not stopped new firms from setting up shop.
Nearly 20,000 new businesses were established in Kent during 2020, based on statistics from Companies House and the Office of National Statistics.
Despite the considerable economic challenges posed by the pandemic, 18,501 new companies were registered in the county compared to 15,963 during 2019, representing an increase of 15.9%.
This brings the total number of registered companies in Kent to 122,694, up from 113,551 at the end of 2019, equal to 8.1% growth. In the same year there were 10,634 company dissolutions.
It continues a positive trend which has seen year-on-year growth for the number of firms setting up shop in the county – and placed Kent sixth overall in the UK, just below West Yorkshire and Essex, with London well on top with 270,114 new firms.
Medway formed the highest number of new businesses (2,785), followed by Dartford (1,865) and Maidstone (1,744).
The lowest number of new registrations was recorded in Dover with 733.
John Korchak, operations director at Inform Direct, who conducted the research, said: “It is excellent news to see that Kent has achieved a record year for new company formations during 2020 despite the unprecedented uncertainties brought by Covid-19.
“Many of the new company formations are in the retail sector, with a large number of new businesses set up to sell goods online or locally, thereby taking advantage of customers’ changing shopping habits.
" Secondly, the effect of the pandemic and national lockdowns means that sadly some existing businesses have folded and employees made redundant, and we see many of those people setting up new ventures on their own as an alternative way to earn a living.
“2020 was a year like no other for UK businesses. Although we can look forward to a brighter future with the vaccination programme, there remain unknown factors such as how quickly the economy will recover and of course the impact of Brexit.”
Alongside Kent’s achievement, the UK as a whole saw a record-breaking 780,766 new businesses formed, compared to 690,763 in 2019.
The overall number of UK companies also continued to grow to 4,837,426, an 8.2% increase on the total of 4,471,008 at the end of 2019.
The number of company dissolutions across the UK – 418,427 during 2020 – was the lowest since 2015.
However, it remains open to debate whether this positive trend will last, with the withdrawal of government support for businesses expected to have an impact in the future.
According to the research, new enterprises set up during the pandemic might also be short-lived, as people return to full-time employment or face obstacles growing the business.
Part of the reason for an increase could be a rise in unemployment across the county - it jumped by 116% last year.