Was it worth it for small businesses?
The Olympics were a long time in the offing: since it was announced in July 2005 that the Games would be coming to London in 2012, headlines were dominated by their impending arrival. While the nation became gripped with Olympic fever, opinion among business owners was divided: would London 2012 be good for business?
Some businesses gave a unanimous no. Even John Lewis, an Olympic sponsor, reported that sales at its flagship Oxford Street store fell 8.7% in the week to July 28, while Next said its London stores would “suffer” at the hands of the Olympics. For small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that won valuable contracts, such as Rainbow Productions, a company that signed a licensing agreement to manufacture costumes and manage the personal appearances of the London 2012 mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, it is easy to be more pro-Olympics.
says Xavier Adam, founder of marketing and strategy agency AMC Network
For us, the Olympics were brilliant. We do a lot of international business – our clients are spread across Western Europe and the US – so it was fantastic to have this massive business audience on our doorstep.
￼￼I went to Barcelona in 1992, so I had an idea of the potential of the Olympics. A lot of the guys I work with were really negative and decided to leave London while the Games were on. But I took full advantage of the business opportunities, spending every day with at least two different delegations. I spent time with the Czechs, the Scots, Canadians, Swiss, Australians and I met all sorts of people: ambassadors, high commissioners, press, entrepreneurs, and people responsible for economic development in their countries.
Through the Olympics we’ve been able to reinforce all these links with the rest of the world. I think sometimes the UK is quite inward-looking. I knew it would be an almighty event, not just for sport, but on the whole business and culture side. But it’s completely surpassed even the expectations I had.
says Kartina Tjandra, founder of Kooki, a loyalty card app
We just launched five weeks ago and a big part of my role has been going to local retailers in London to sign them up to our loyalty card app. One of the things I’ve been asking them is how the Olympics has treated them, and I’ve been getting very mixed responses. Often, they’ve said there’s been no real change, or it’s actually been even quieter.
One of the problems, I think, is because the Government advised people to leave London because it would be so crowded. So they have found that some of their regulars have gone on holiday. And even in areas popular with tourists, such as Covent Garden, footfall is down. One customer yesterday said they were looking forward to the Olympics being over.
Perhaps overall the net amount of money brought into the UK by tourists is up, thanks to the Olympics. But the tourists are spending money on accommodation and food, not at small businesses. How many tourists would take the time to look up where is the most famous independent local coffee shop, for example? Not many, I suspect.