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British small businesses more upbeat than European neighbours

by LLB staff reporter
15th Jul 20 8:07 am

A new survey by Facebook in partnership with the World Bank and the OECD, has found that the entrepreneurial spirit of British SMEs remains undiminished, with three fifths of respondents feeling optimistic about the future of their business despite the significant challenges they have faced in light of the pandemic.

Although the study found 43% of UK small businesses were forced to temporarily close due to lockdowns, and 58% saw sales fall, 60% of UK owners remain hopeful for the future of their business, making the UK’s SMEs the most optimistic in Western Europe alongside the Netherlands. Germany’s small businesses are close behind with 58% of them saying they are optimistic for the future. French businesses, in contrast, have taken a far more pessimistic view, with just 35% expressing optimism.

However, Western European countries lag behind Scandinavia in their outlook, where 72% of Danish, 66% of Norwegian and 66% of Swedish small businesses say they’re optimistic for the future.

Notably, in the UK, female-led SMEs have fared better during the Covid-19 crisis than their male-owned counterparts. 64% of male-led businesses reported falling sales during the crisis versus just 52% of female-led businesses.

And this stronger performance during the crisis has given British, female-led SMEs a bright outlook. Female-led businesses are 11% (63%) more optimistic than their male equivalents (52%), and only Swedish female-led businesses (69%) are more optimistic across all of Europe.

Some of that hopefulness seems to be created by small businesses’ online presences. The research showed UK small businesses to be among the most digitally savvy in Europe, with over half (56%) making more than a quarter of their sales online, behind only Ireland where 65% are equally digitally savvy. In the UK, 63% of female-led SMEs make a quarter of their sales online, compared to less than half (48%) of male-owned businesses.

Take Bami Kuteyi, whose unique invitation to customers is to “twerk after work” at one of her Bam Bam Boogie Dance Fitness Afro-Caribbean dance classes. Bami knows that the COVID-19 crisis could have spelled trouble for her company.

But, as she moved her business online, she focused on tackling her two main challenges: persuading clients to attend online classes, and financially supporting her staff. Within days, Bami had created a lifeline — the Bam Bam Boogie app. She promoted the app on Facebook and Instagram, and saw downloads increase significantly. April 2020 was also a record-breaking month for bookings, with a 75% increase on her previous best month – from £4,000 to £7,000. Bami says she will keep running her online services in the future – after all, her online classes have opened up a whole new demographic of international clients that she’s keen to keep.

Facebook and Be The Business team up to provide support

The survey findings follow the announcement of Facebook’s partnership with Be the Business to provide vital support to help the UK’s 1.4m micro and small businesses recover from the impact of Covid-19.

The partnership will provide SME owners with vital resources and guidance to help rebuild their business and bounce back stronger. It has already launched a Messenger bot giving instant access to the latest government and Be The Business guidance, and from July, Be The Business and Facebook will host a series of virtual events to help upskill businesses across the UK, and create new peer to peer support in Facebook groups to provide ongoing help to the UK’s small businesses.

Steve Hatch, VP of Northern Europe at Facebook said, “From fitness classes, to restaurants, and beyond, small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of economies across the world –  and it is vital we support them as they get back on their feet.

“These findings show a steely optimism among British business owners looking to bounce back better following Covid-19, despite how challenging the past few months have been. At Facebook, we’re committed to doing all we can to provide guidance and support to all SMEs to help them go from surviving to thriving.”

Bami Kuteyi, Founder of Bam Bam Boogie said, “Facebook and Instagram have been especially useful during this time. We used them right away to get the word out about our new online studio.”

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