SMEs hoping Christmas doesn’t lose its magic

Almost three quarters (74%) of small business owners think it is increasingly hard to rely on Christmas revenues due to the cost-of-living crisis, with 61% saying the season has not been the same since the Covid-19 pandemic.

A survey of independent business owners, on behalf of Small Business Saturday and American Express, found peak season is becoming less reliable as a revenue driver, as the campaign calls upon the public to support their favourite small firms on this weekend’s Small Business Saturday.

Taking place this Saturday, the campaign’s mission is to support and celebrate the UK’s 5.5 million small businesses, encouraging people to ‘shop local’ and support small firms in their communities. Further research also found that the peak festive season will be crucial to the fortunes of 86% of small firms, with over two thirds saying Christmas is their most profitable period and vital to sustaining their finances through the winter and tougher periods.

“Having had slower than anticipated sales in September and October we are now really hoping for a strong festive season. It is not only vital to our business’ future but also massively sets the tone for next year, impacting investment decisions as well as the annual salary reviews, we are able to make for our wonderful team,” says Kate Rumsey, owner, Rumsey’s Handmade Chocolate. “Each individual chocolate we make – including every single Santa – is handmade. So we have already absorbed a huge amount of costs in terms of ingredients and labour as we start making our chocolates in September.”

With fears of recession resurfacing, campaigners say small firms continue to face a raft of challenges and need focused support over the winter. Over three quarters (78%) of business owners feel they are being hit the hardest by economic challenges and 31% say inflation remains a key challenge.

On Small Business Saturday, customers across the UK go out and support all types of small businesses, both online and in bricks-and-mortar stores; from independent shops and restaurants to small service and b2b based businesses like accountants and plumbers. Many small businesses celebrate the day by hosting events, offering promotions, and collaborating with other local businesses.

Despite the ongoing economic challenges, Small Business Saturday’s data also showed that small businesses remain upbeat with almost half (45%) feeling confident about the next six months and 22% diversifying their operations to deal with hurdles. This includes a rising trend for collaboration amongst local businesses, as 73% team up to navigate economic challenges.

“This time of year is crucial for small businesses and this research brings home just how uncertain it is becoming, with the turbulence of recent years,” said Michelle Ovens, director of Small Business Saturday UK. “If we all make a conscious effort to support our favourite small businesses, we can collectively turn this situation around. Every penny spent with a small business, every like on social, every review posted, every recommendation shared has power within it, and it all ladders up to make the world of difference. Small businesses need us this winter, just as much as we need them.”    

The Small Business Minister and the Mayor of London are among those who have already publicly supported this year’s campaign. Small Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “On this year’s Small Business Saturday, I urge everyone to join me in going out and supporting the small businesses that are the heart of our towns and cities as well as their local firms based online. Every local purchase this Christmas period is an investment in our local communities and the hard-working entrepreneurs that form the heart of the places we call home.”

 The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Small Business Saturday is a great initiative that celebrates smaller local businesses and the essential role they play in our communities. Small businesses are vital to London’s economy and we need to support them as they navigate the ongoing challenges of the cost of living crisis. I want businesses in the capital to thrive and I encourage Londoners to get involved this weekend. By supporting local businesses we can help build a better, fairer and more prosperous London for everyone.” 

As well as encouraging the public to shop small, organisers are also urging people to support their favourite independents in other ways, whether it be leaving positive reviews or spreading the word amongst friends and family.

Dan Edelman, General Manager, UK Merchant Services at American Express, said: “As the campaign moves into its second decade, it remains just as vital. We are proud to play our part in championing small businesses as long-standing principal supporter of Small Business Saturday UK, and through our Shop Small campaign, which encourages our Cardmembers to spend with independent, local businesses all year round.”