By Pascal Culverhouse
It’s fair to say that there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s bid to leave the European Union and it’s still unclear how the government is intending to deal with the economic, political and social fallout.
There is, however, a growing thinktank that sees the UK’s SMES as the businesses that will be most successful post-Brexit, at least at a consumer level. This is especially true of recent growth areas like the electronic cigarette industry, which appears unfazed by the referendum result.
While the complicated topics of freedom of movement and our access to the European trading markets are discussed, it’s the high street shopper who has supported our economy since the final votes were counted in June 2016. Perhaps we could be about to experience a resurgence of the UK’s high street.
Evidence suggests that large companies can no longer guarantee new shops will be successful. Is this because of ineffective business strategies? Or simply due to the rise of online sales? As the UK’s high street evolves, so too must the services and products being sold. For the dynamic business owner, there is undoubtedly space to thrive.
The High Street has evolved
Any business relying primarily on retail trade as a source of income will be aware of the increasing portion of consumers who do their shopping online. In the UK, the phrase ‘the high street’ has become somewhat defunct. Originally, it referred to a physical location; a street where all of an area’s primary retail outlets could be found. It is now a broader term, incorporating both physical and digital shopping. In an age of seemingly endless WiFi access and 4G, shopping can happen at any time, from any place.
With an increase in the number of self-employed people in the UK, consumers spending more and a reluctance shown by big businesses to expand, Brexit could provide an opportunity for many of the UK’s SMEs.
UK SMEs should look inward
Remember globalisation? Well, it seems like the UK’s economy is favouring a more sustainable, internalised approach to business. The model for globalisation has come under criticism recently and, with a greater focus on sustainability, “shopping local” and renewable energy, it appears consumers have begun to value a more localised economy.
Another contributing factor to the internalisation of the UK’s economy is the strength of sterling. Compared with the Euro and the US Dollar, it’s currently at one of the lowest values in the last five years. Because of this, importing products and services becomes increasingly expensive. So, why not produce more products at home?
In the e-cigarette industry, for example, part of the reason for its widespread success is down to excellent UK-based production facilities and the emergence of micro, “local” economies. Considering the fact that 800 vape stores opened in 2016, perhaps we could learn a thing or two from them and this market. These specialist stores often offer experienced and affable customer support, selling local products. But, they also understand that without eCommerce, they are ignoring a large portion of ‘high street’ consumers.
It is a fluid and flexible business that will prove most successful in a post-Brexit economy. Fluid in its understanding of its customer base, while being flexible as to the format through which it conducts its sales. The uncertainty of the future of our economy might be daunting for some, but as they say, fortune favours the bold.
Pascal Culverhouse is founder of Electric Tobacconist LTD