Coronavirus: Small business will be 'engine' to UK economic recovery in 2021

Small Business Saturday UK’s chief Michelle Ovens has urged Britons to support the sector. Photo: Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday UK’s chief Michelle Ovens has urged Britons to support the sector. Photo: Small Business Saturday

The boss of grassroots campaign Small Business Saturday has urged Britons to support the sector which could be the key to unlocking economic growth for the UK in the long-term.

“We know from the last recession that small businesses were the engine of recovery. They are slower to lay off staff than bigger companies, which means money stays in communities, even if pay has to be cut. They genuinely care about people,” Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday UK, told Yahoo Finance UK.

“The recovery won’t all happen next year but we can start to see a glimmer of hope in 2021 certainly,” she added.

She said small businesses are fast-moving and can often be more innovative than bigger ones due to their size, which means they can adapt quickly to the changing economic climate.

Ovens explained the many ways in which people can show their support — via online shopping and click and collect services, as well as by leaving a good review, spreading the word on social media and buying vouchers or gift cards that can be redeemed in the future.

“Despite the fact that we can’t all flood to our high streets right now we as a nation must remember the role small businesses play in communities and the economy,” she said.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), at the start of 2020 there were 5.94 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees) in the UK, employing 13.3 million people, with a turnover of £1.6tn ($2.1tn).

A big shift in consciousness

Research commissioned by American Express and Small Business Saturday UK showed that coronavirus lockdowns boosted the nation’s love for small businesses, with 59% of Brits saying they now support local businesses more than previously.

Ovens told Yahoo Finance UK that “this shows a big shift in people’s consciousness” and they are more aware about where they are spending their money and who they are supporting during these tough times.

Small Business Saturday UK works around the year to help local businesses which includes workshops and mentoring, but they want people to go out of their way on 5 December to shop local.

In September, the organisation chose 100 businesses to highlight in the run up to Small Business Saturday, now in its eighth year.

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These include Kitchen Dancing, which runs dance sessions for parties, events and team-building. In lockdown it rolled out a series of daily online dances.

Others include Little Boat Gifts, a gift and bespoke framing shop; coffee roasters Perky Blenders; and Grants' Farm Foods, which produces and sells extra virgin rapeseed oil.

She was keen to point out that there is tons of help available for local businesses, through this initiative which offers support for free, but also many others, and no one should feel they have to suffer alone, especially if they are dealing with mental health concerns.

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Ovens also lauded the government for its efforts to support businesses, saying “nobody could have predicted the money pumped into the economy in the forms of local grants, loans and furlough schemes.”

She said these have been a massive safety net for businesses and the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has been quick to announce new measures every time the situation has changed.

However some small business leaders have hit out against the UK government’s handling of the coronavirus, and the second lockdown.

While some are resigned to the fact that a lockdown is what is needed to get caseloads under control, others feel the handling of the pandemic in general has been shambolic.

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