Small Business Saturday is not just for Christmas

Small Business Saturday which this year took place on 4 December - is always a joyful day, which gives small firms an important spotlight, during this most crucial festive trading period.

Small Business Saturday is not just for Christmas

Small Business Saturday ‘ which this year took place on 4 December – is always a joyful day, which gives small firms an important spotlight, during this most crucial festive trading period.

It has been phenomenal and uplifting to see all the amazing support for Small Business Saturday. Again, the campaign generated huge awareness on the day, trending on social media, and seeing support from across the political spectrum. As well as backing from most Members of Parliaments for local businesses, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak all publicly supported the campaign (even creating their own video messages!), as well as Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. 

This year it was especially wonderful to see the return of a huge wave of community events and celebrations up and down the country to mark the occasion. From Brixton to Belfast, Barrow to Bridgend, hundreds of festive markets, craft fairs, and pop-ups took place, driving support for independents. 

Local councils and Business Improvement Districts across the country got creative, using the occasion as a chance to kick off the festive season in style and encourage residents to support small, local firms. We saw everything from an Elf Hunt in Warwickshire, fashion pop ups in Islington and craft fairs in Glasgow. And it was also striking just how many councils chose to suspend parking charges to help drive footfall. 

Footfall is of course being particularly closely watched this year, as the longer-term changes to how we interact with towns and city centres are revealed, following the pandemic’s epic disruption. The introduction of the Government’s new Plan B restrictions, while of course necessary for public health, will create fresh uncertainty and challenges.  Footfall will undoubtedly decline, particularly with the new ‘work from home’ guidance reducing commuting and heightening public caution. 

This, coupled with the requirement for testing and vaccine passports for venues, will see bricks and mortar retailers, hospitality firms and those in the night time economy taking a huge hit, as well as those in the broader supply chain of these sectors. These businesses, and many more, have only just started on their tentative recovery after nearly two years of this crisis. They need the winter trading boost to get through to 2022 with their heads above water. 

Campaigns like Small Business Saturday are vital for keeping the message about supporting small independents front of mind with the public. It is not about boosting small firms on just one day, or in one season – but encouraging ongoing support and consciousness.

During the pandemic there has been a huge surge of affection for small firms, as people threw their support behind local businesses, just as these businesses supported us, our communities, and our loved ones. Research that the Small Business Saturday campaign conducted with American Express found that more than half of people now support small firms more than they did before the pandemic. We’ve also seen people connect with their local areas in a new way, getting out to their local high streets and town centres, rather than bigger cities. And we’ve seen small firms start to move in to fill the gaps left by the collapse of bigger high street businesses.

However, as we move into a new phase of the crisis, it’s vital that we keep supporting small businesses. They will need sustained backing from the public throughout the crucial festive season and beyond.  And Government support will also, of course, be vital. Without some intervention many small businesses will struggle to get through yet another blow to their income, even with the heroic adapting that many have done over the pandemic so far. 

Maintaining cashflow will be hugely vital for business owners over the next few months, and there are many levers that can and should be pulled by the Government, banks and big business to help this. The current cut to business rates by 50% for some sectors, will not go far enough. Until we can safely get businesses back up to full speed, we need rates to be completely cut, we need the recovery loan scheme to be extended, and we need as much leeway on cashflow as we can possibly get from organisations like HMRC on delaying tax bills and utility companies too. 

The joy and outpouring of affection for independent businesses that we saw across the UK on Small Business Saturday needs to be maintained throughout the winter. 

Footfall might be taking a knock this winter, but we can all still vote with our ‘feet’. Whether shopping instore or online, whether it’s dining in, or a takeaway, leaving a review or telling your friends – we all have the power to have a big impact on small firms this winter. The nations 6 million small businesses will be the engine of the UK’s recovery. They have been there for us, and so we must keep being there for them.

Michelle Ovens
Michelle Ovens

Share via
Copy link