Ever since the government announced their plan for the easing of Covid restrictions back in March, the public have been on the edge of their seats preparing for some form of normality to return. Schools and workplaces re-opened, hairdressers and salons followed suit, as did the high street before hospitality services finally returned. People were once again out and about, reuniting with relatives and socialising with friends outdoors, eating out and finally enjoying food or a drink at their local pubs and restaurants.
Now, we are slowly approaching the end of all restrictions – no face masks, no social distancing, vaccinations for all and the possibility of travelling abroad once again. Although many of us are more than ready to re-adjust to a life without restrictions, there is no doubt that the pandemic has had a massive impact on most businesses, and especially on small independent businesses. So, how will they cope?
How small businesses coped during the pandemic
Shopping small had a real boom during the pandemic; people understood the necessity of supporting small businesses. We were all shopping online more than ever; although the situation was forced upon us, we all turned online during the pandemic to socialise, stay in touch and shop at a distance. Whether it was the recognition that small businesses were not accessing the government support as much or just a desire to spend money more wisely, it made for a good few months for these micro businesses.
During the height of the pandemic back in 2020, a study revealed that online marketplaces Etsy, eBay and Shopify all experienced a boom of sales, higher revenue and an increase in users throughout the pandemic. However, during October 2020, shares in all three companies dropped significantly – Etsy’s shares dropped by 5% whilst eBay were hit with a 7% decline.
During mid-March 2020, when lockdown began, Shopify’s shares almost tripled in value and their sales doubled – revenue was up by a mighty 96% from the previous year. Shopify’s President, Harley Finkelstein, stated that COVID-19 had ‘triggered an accelerated shift to digital commerce’.
How will small businesses cope after lockdown?
Based on recent data gathered from over 350+ businesses, 84% of them have noticed a significant negative impact on their business since the easing of lockdown. It’s very troubling times for these businesses as in-person events haven’t fully eased into their new swing yet either. Some of the remaining 16% said they had not seen good sales for some time, but didn’t think that the lockdown ease was to blame. Either way, a significant number of micro businesses within the creative industries are currently in difficulty.
Covid restrictions are easing slightly and we’ve all been waiting so long for this moment. It’s been wonderful to get out and about, socialising and seeing friends and family. However, this has really impacted the small business community. Shopping online significantly slowed down as a result of our new found freedom and isn’t making much recovery. Are people spending their money on eating out, day trips or even holidays instead? Certainly people want to be out and about, socialising now that we can – and online shopping and browsing is no longer a pastime.
Shopping small, be that on or off-line, is probably the last thought on everyone’s mind, but those independent businesses depend on our support to survive. We’ve seen quotes like ‘buy small business or BYE small business’ and the situation is getting rather desperate! Small businesses need us to shop from them and support them now more than ever.
Holly Tucker is currently running a large campaign to support makers beyond the pandemic, and it’s a voice we must echo and share. Holly, founder of NotOnTheHighStreet.com and Holly & Co., is on a mission to showcase small and local businesses across the UK. Her current campaign supports independent makers and creators and provides small businesses with a kit and tools to help spread the word to encourage consumers to shop and share their business through social media.
How can we support small businesses post-lockdown?
Since the pandemic, up to 50% more small businesses were established in June 2020 than in June 2019, with small businesses now making up 99.9% of private sector businesses. The negative impact of the pandemic has demonstrated that 61% of small and independent businesses have dealt with serious financial issues throughout last year. The government understood the difficulties they were facing and provided support packages to help with the repercussions of COVID-19. There is still more to be done however, with over 2 million self-employed struggling to access financial support and feeling that there still isn’t enough support available. We need to find a balance of financial support and consumer support.
Handmade Hour and Pedddle are working together to host a Love Leaving Lockdown Virtual Market on Tresstle, to bring these small businesses into your home – making shopping from businesses easier and enabling us to continue supporting these independent creatives.
Hosted on the new events platform, Tresstle.com, this virtual market is dedicated to helping small creative businesses sell at online events, collaborate with other businesses and increase brand awareness. Online events are a relatively new concept and one that will grow in the coming years, to run in parallel with offline/in-person events and complement their presence. The Love Leaving Lockdown event will take place on 26th & 27th June, from 10am to 8pm respectively. This online event will celebrate our renewed freedom whilst recognising the journey we are still experiencing, and most importantly the need to support small businesses and buy from them continuously.
What do small businesses think?
We asked our members their thoughts on coping after lockdown. Some quotes from Pedddle’s small business stallholders:
“My online sales have been incredibly slow the last few months, so it’s been a relief to be back out selling at real life markets. It’s been so nice to have that human interaction and face to face connection! That being said, it’s so important to still be supporting small businesses in real life and online – I don’t think I’ll be taking physical shopping for granted any time soon, but the online market is huge and varied for both shoppers and sellers!” ~ Mirri from Art by MR.
“I have yet to do any real life markets – my business has solely been online up ‘til now. I’ve definitely seen a dip in sales lately, as many others have – everyone is out having fun in the sun instead! That’s why online markets are so great – it’s a chance to make a day of it, find small businesses and shop small whatever the weather!” ~ Rebecca from Fallow Moon
“Covid has thrown everything out; patterns and foundations we’ve worked hard to form are now all over the place. Online sales were brilliant over lockdown (but still less than normal markets for me), but now we are all in a ridiculously quiet patch. We are all so eager to sell at (in person) markets, but the footfall is low as people are still unsure of busy places and event numbers are controlled. Shops have reopened but depending on where those shops are located and how the lack of commuters/tourists affect them, changes our predictable sales too. Everything is so unknown and every decision feels like a gamble. It really affects small businesses as we can’t plan ahead. However, the overall positive is that more people are conscious about shopping locally and were introduced to so many independent brands. Indie businesses have really rallied together and we are learning and growing faster because of it. Hopefully at Christmas, indie brands will flourish as we will be able to sell at markets AND have built up a larger online following during the pandemic!” ~ Beck from Prior Made and Prior Shop (a bricks and mortar store).