News in brief: Christmas; productivity; broadband

News in brief
News in brief

SMEs forced to borrow money over the Christmas period

Almost half of small and medium-sized businesses have been forced to urgently borrow money in order to cover basic monthly costs such as wages. IGF Invoice Finance, which conducted the research, is urging SMEs to seek financial guidance and prepare in advance of the Christmas period, when these essential outgoings peak.

Across all industries, Christmas can bring great opportunity with boosts in sales, increased consumer appetite and preparations for the New Year. However, these often come with the requirement to increase staff headcount, purchase higher volumes of stock and prepare for a reduction in the number of working days. These factors will all lead to a disruption in business and potential strains on cashflow.

IGF managing director Tracy Ewen warns: “Outgoings such as wages are essential to any business and a cost that must be met. This research highlights the struggle that some companies have even during times of ‘business as usual’. In the winter season we see many businesses experience an increase in these costs and a reduction in the efficiency of managing their income.”

Britain’s productivity falls behind due to untapped potential of SMEs

Britain's productivity is falling behind other economies because it is slower to turn ambitious smaller firms into exporters of innovative new products and services, according to a new report co-authored by Goldman Sachs, the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) and the British Business Bank (BBB).

With more support, it is estimated that up to 110,000 small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could become regular exporters, adding an extra £1.15 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy in the first year alone in the form of new and higher value jobs.

ERC Deputy Director and Programme Director for *10,000 Small Businesses *UK, Prof Mark Hart, who is based at Aston University, said: "Our research shows that there is huge untapped potential out there and that if we could build the confidence of innovative businesses that have high growth ambitions to start exporting regularly, we could generate an enormous boost to our economy.

"The challenge for those providing this support - whether government or the private sector - is to make sure it lands in the right places. A scattergun approach won't work, because only a relatively small proportion of firms combine a high-growth mindset with innovation and a capability to export."

Trends for SMEs looking to make the most of Black Friday

As the Christmas season fast approaches, the small business marketing experts at GoDaddy have released an analysis of last year’s Christmas season for SMEs looking to make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales peaks. Key findings include:

Monday 16 November, two weeks before Black Friday, GoDaddy finds to be the optimum day to engage with customers. GoDaddy coined "Head Start Monday" because on this day in 2014, open rates were 14% higher than the average daily open rate for the November/December period.

Email marketers often misjudge their timing with Black Friday, which sees 30.4% more marketing emails sent than Head Start Monday, but a drop in open rates by 19 percent, compared to Head Start Monday.

GoDaddy saw a huge surge of messages sent on Cyber Monday 2014, but open and click-through rates pale in comparison to those noted on Head Start Monday.

Government broadband scheme helps 55,000 SMEs get connected

More than 55,000 SMEs employing up to one million people across the UK have taken advantage of a Government scheme to boost their broadband connectivity. Some 5% of these businesses are located in Wales, with more than 2,800 businesses taking up the offer.

The Government’s Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme was designed to get SMEs moving into a faster digital market and connected to superfast broadband. The initiative – which has now allocated all of the £40m funding available since April 2015 – gave businesses the chance to apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to cover the cost of installing faster and better broadband. Hugely successful, the scheme has helped a variety of businesses, including architects, estate agents, mechanics, events coordinators, cafés, graphic designers and caterers.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “Our Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme has been a tremendous success. More than 55,000 small businesses across the UK have taken up the offer, many of which are already seeing significant boosts to their business as a result of improved broadband speeds. We’re transforming the UK’s digital landscape, helping cities to create new jobs and attract investment to make the UK an enviable business destination.”