SME retailers are concerned about corporate competition

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Nearly three-quarters (70%) of SME owners in the retail sector are concerned that multinationals and other large corporates ‘have too much say’ over the future viability of their business, according to research compiled by accountancy firm, Menzies LLP. 

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of SME owners in the retail sector are concerned that multinationals and other large corporates ‘have too much say’ over the future viability of their business, according to research compiled by accountancy firm, Menzies LLP.

In order to address this, two-fifths (39%) of SME retailers are intending to boost their own competitiveness by cutting costs and raising finance to re-invest in their businesses and a similar percentage are looking for ways to spread risk. However, a similar number of respondents (38%) said they are not intending to take any action at all, with the majority of this group explaining that they ‘feel unable to do anything about it’.  

Just over half (51%) of respondents in the retail sector believe the prolonged period of Brexit uncertainty has favoured multinationals and other large corporates, allowing them to gain ground over SMEs. 

Roberto Lobue, partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said:  “Small and medium-sized retailers have been suffering in the current climate of uncertainty and many believe large corporates and multinationals have been better able to prepare for Brexit and invest in technologies to give them a competitive advantage. 

“Whilst they realise that being smaller and more agile is a bonus, SMEs are concerned that corporates will be more cash-ready to take advantage of any upturn that might come once the Brexit stalemate is resolved one way or the other.” 

Harder to make a profit 

The cross-sector survey also reveals that 46% of SME owners believe it has become harder to make a profit in the past year, despite most reporting static or improving sales. Whilst Brexit uncertainty was the main reason given for this, one in three (33%) SME owners also blamed ‘more competition from multinationals and other large corporates’. 

“SMEs are feeling the heat of competition, and some believe that large customers are holding too many of the cards, which is putting pressure on their cash flow and operating margins. Some also think large corporates have scale, geographic reach and market dominance on their side,” added Roberto Lobue.  

Challenges facing SME retailers  

Commenting on the challenges that lie ahead, SME owners in the retail sector identified their top six challenges as follows: 

·       Predicting future demand 

·       Cash-flow forecasting 

·       Controlling costs 

·       Brexit-related uncertainty 

·       Knowing whether to invest or not 

·       Staying focused on customer service delivery 

SME advantages and disadvantages 

SME owners identified five key advantages that corporates have over them in the current climate as follows: ‘bigger budgets to invest in technology’; ‘better access to credit and finance options’; ‘bigger budgets to attract talented people’ and ‘they can afford to take a long-term view’ and ‘better access to strategic advice’.  

Two thirds (63%) of SME owners also know they have some advantages compared to large corporates. The top five were identified as follows: ‘lower operational overheads and fixed costs’; ‘quicker decision-making ability due to a lack of shareholders’; ‘better equipped to react to market changes’; ‘less red tape and compliance risk’ and ‘fewer legacy issues’.