Two thirds (64 per cent) of UK small businesses believe that the pandemic has increased support and awareness of their sector, according to new research from Small Business Britain and BT Skills For Tomorrow. The research, which polled over 1000 firms in Small Business Britain’s UK community, found that despite the tough challenges for small businesses, the crisis has highlighted and reinforced the sector’s key role at the heart of communities and the British economy.
The speed and entrepreneurialism with which many small businesses have responded to the crisis has received widespread recognition, with 45 per cent developing new products and services, such as takeaway services, virtual consultations, click and collect and deliveries.
Many of the changes instigated by small businesses have involved digital transformation, with over half (51 per cent) pivoting to online to engage with customers more, 45 per cent selling online more and 25 per cent reporting an increase in the use of contactless payments. As a result of this 46 per cent expect their use of digital to increase in the future.
Over half (55 per cent) see the business changes they have made in the crisis as positive and 19 per cent actually expect their revenues to increase. Despite these positive indicators, many small businesses still feel very uncertain about the future. A significant proportion, 70 percent admitted they expect to have to return to lockdown at some point in 2020. While this would represent another major challenge for businesses, a third (35 per cent) feel far more prepared for this eventuality than previously.
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Over a third (41%) expect their revenues to drop by 50% or more and over half (53 per cent) still lack confidence about their business’s future. However, this does represent a 10 per cent decline in the numbers of small businesses feeling this negative, compared to similar data from this May.
Michelle Ovens MBE, Founder of Small Business Britain, said: “Small businesses across the UK have played a very special and important role throughout this crisis, supporting communities. The fact that over two thirds are feeling increasing recognition and affection from the public is testament to this. However, our data also shows the major uncertainty still out there, so this sector still massively needs our support. While so many small businesses have taken the opportunity to strengthen their digital skills and transform, it’s really important that we continue to help more firms to build the agility and resilience they need for the future.”
Pete Oliver, MD SME for BT’s Enterprise unit, said: “With almost three quarters of small businesses expecting another lockdown, and with more than half of all businesses not feeling confident about their future, it’s clear that small businesses need continued support. At BT we’re stepping up by using our technology, expertise and scale to help small businesses boost their connectivity, cashflow and confidence through a new support scheme. From free digital skills support and mentoring, to tech start-up bursaries and up to £2,500 of funding towards high-speed connections we have something to offer for all small businesses.”
Small Business Britain is continuing its free ‘Back to Business’ programme, which will include a summer-long programme of workshops, advice and support to help small businesses recover and move forwards.
BT is supporting through its Small Business Support Scheme, by offering a series of free digital skills webinars specifically designed for small businesses, to help them make the most of technology and navigate through these challenging times. Other support on offer ranges from mentoring, tech start-up bursaries to access to high speed-connections.
Research and content conducted and provided by Small Business Britain and BT Skills For Tomorrow