How to support local trade as a business owner

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There are no end of challenges facing the modern business owner. As well as turning a profit, they have to deal with filing taxes, handling recruitment, managing stock, launching marketing campaigns and a wide range of other considerations.

Then there is the difficulty of securing finance to support their expansion plans, making sure they don’t over-reach and find themselves facing an even greater headache. The coronavirus pandemic certainly turned the world on its head, with SMEs among the hardest hit, which led to a number of government initiatives to lend a helping hand to those in need.

As normality gradually resumes, the future looks a little brighter and although all businesses have to contend with competition, how can they support other enterprises around them?

How has the pandemic affected SMEs?

SMEs make up 99% of all businesses in the UK, so it goes without saying that their health is absolutely vital to the state of the economy. It’s concerning, therefore, that the Covid-19 outbreak looks set to cost them an estimated £126.6 billion – more than double what owners initially predicted midway through 2020.

Businesses were also forced to adapt their strategies. With high-street premises closed due to lockdown restrictions, SMEs had to quickly pivot to an online-first approach, targeting their customer base and completing sales via digital means.

What support has the government provided?

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) was set up to provide financial assistance to smaller businesses, who could access up to £5 million via loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance.

New applications for the CBILS closed at the end of March 2021, but businesses have until the end of December to apply for the Recovery Loan Scheme, which is another government-funded initiative offering up to £10m in financing.

What can local businesses do to help each other?

Now that restrictions are easing and a semblance of normality is returning, SMEs can help their neighbours in a number of ways. For example, hospitality venues such as hotels and B&Bs can furnish their facilities with locally sourced toiletries, while restaurants can get their ingredients from surrounding farms and suppliers. 

And businesses should be encouraged to create partnerships with other SMEs – for example pubs agreeing deals with local breweries to sell their produce. It’s a win-win: the pub boosts revenues and profits, while the brewery benefits from brand promotion as well as sales in greater volume.

All in all, shopping locally is often more sustainable, plus it has the ability to help create jobs and leave a positive impact on the economy.