Small businesses 'planning to invest next year' after finding themselves better prepared for second lockdown

THREE quarters of small and medium-sized enterprises are planning to invest in their business next year – after being more prepared for the second lockdown, research has revealed.

As the UK prepares to return to the tier system, a survey of 547 SMEs found 66 per cent felt they were in a better shape for November’s lockdown than they were in March.

More than a third (36 per cent) put this down to being more mentally prepared while 32 per cent said the changes they’ve made to their business made it more resilient.

Another 14 per cent felt they were in a better place to deal with the restrictions due to the Government support in place.

Almost half (45 per cent) said they had pivoted more towards e-commerce by boosting their online presence – with website improvements (67 per cent), putting services online (66 per cent) and social media advertising (64 per cent) cited as the measures which have had the most positive impact.

Barclaycard Payments data show that small businesses are being rewarded for adding the ability to take online payments, with e-commerce transactions at SME merchants up six per cent since last quarter, and up 16 per cent year-on-year.

As a result, 74 per cent of business owners are planning to invest back into their business next year, with marketing (29 per cent) and new equipment and technology (28 per cent) the most popular areas for a boost.

And 22 per cent are planning to invest in working from home or productivity tools.

Half of business owners (50 per cent) are also investing in improving digital skills, either for themselves or their staff.

Konrad Kelling, head of small business, Barclaycard Payments, said: “The past year has been incredibly difficult for SMEs across all sectors.

"It’s reassuring to see that many have been able to take advantage of the lessons learned during the first lockdown to adapt their business ensuring that they are able to continue to serve their customers.  

“At Barclaycard, we want to support all of our clients and are working closely with those impacted by current circumstances by providing care packages to help them navigate the challenges they face.”

Among those who adapted was Wasel Ali, who owns Paradise Indian Restaurant in London.

He said: “The first lockdown was a real shock for us. Having mainly operated as a sit-down restaurant, with a small click-and-collect takeaway option, for over 50 years – we suddenly had to adapt and launch our own home delivery service.

“While we knew our customers on first name terms, we realised that we had no way to contact them or let them know that we were still operating.

“Luckily word-of-mouth got round, but over the past few months, we’ve been forced to think outside the box and develop as a business.

“We’re now in a much better position. Since the first lockdown, we’ve set up a new kitchen exclusively for takeaway orders, have begun developing a social media presence, and are designing our own app so that customers can order with us directly.”

Emma Jones, founder of small business network Enterprise Nation, added: “SMEs have again and again proved their resourcefulness and flexibility in this crisis.

“They have been proactive in looking at ways to adapt their business for a COVID economy – with investment in online tools, and having staff working from home all crucial to their ability to ride out the latest round of pandemic disruptions.

“In light of all of the economic setbacks, SMEs are hopeful that 2021 could bring back a degree of normality – and we are hopeful that they will persevere.”

Top tips for SMEs from Konrad Kelling, head of small business, Barclaycard Payments:

Invest in the ‘new normal’

Make sure people know who’s behind your business

Try to think beyond crisis mode

Seek out support

Harness the power of social media

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