From customer spending to working from home, small businesses told us about the trends and topics that they’re keeping an eye on in these uncertain times.
Most people are concerned about the cost of living crisis and that includes the UK’s unsung heroes – small businesses.
As Vodafone launches its offer of 12 months’ free broadband for small firms, a roundtable of entrepreneurs exchanged views about the crisis and other issues they’re concerned about.
Cost-of-living knock-on effects
Spiralling energy prices are not only increasing the cost of doing business, they’re potentially reducing demand for many of the goods and services small businesses sell, said Sarah Jordan from Y.O.U. Underwear and John Pritchard from PALA, producers of ethically made undies and sunglasses respectively.
Ben Shimson, co-founder of research firm Britainthinks, warned that many of the UK’s small business will inevitably have to pass on those increased costs to their consumers in the form of higher prices.
“They have to have quite tricky conversations with customers and they’re often not massively prepared to have those conversations,” he said.
Mr Pritchard’s approach is to focus on selling to customers more able and willing to spend a bit more, such as corporate customers looking for branded items.
Ms Jordan highlighted how dependent her company’s new shop in Oxford is on broadband, as Y.O.U. Underwear initially traded solely online.
“It was surprising how much our physical shop runs on our broadband. Basically, everything – till, music, everything – is kind of connected to that,” she said.
Adam Cozens, managing director of independent coffee roasters Perky Blenders, concurred and emphasised the importance for any business of having back-up systems – especially for card-only businesses taking contactless payments.
“Reliability is what we really need. We’re so vulnerable when it comes to the connectivity, when it comes to the stability of those [payment] systems. Have a back-up!”
As for how to choose from the many competing systems available, Mr Cozens’ advice was simple: “Word of mouth and experience – someone in the small business community will have tried one and know.”