On the 5th December thousands of people up and down the country supported the 5.2 million small businesses on their doorsteps.
Now in its third year in the UK, Small Business Saturday is celebrating a total spend of £623m – an increase of £119m compared with last year. According to main sponsors, American Express, over 75% of local councils took part representing a 20% increase from last year.
As these figures show, the initiative is working. But the scale of Small Business Saturday seems a world away from the spending levels at online retailers. Over this year’s Black Friday weekend, shoppers spent £1.1bn with online retailers, highlighting the permanent shift from physical to online.
For years we have discussed whether the advent of online retailers spells the end of the High Street. It seems that the current consensus is that retail is now a multi-platform industry, cognisant of the need to offer a mix of physical and online services to customers.
Whilst online has thrived, a need has emerged to help bolster physical businesses and the High Street, and these efforts have been borne out in recent government policy.
In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced 15 new enterprise zones in small towns and rural areas, taking the total up to 24. By creating favourable tax and regulatory conditions these zones aim to address economic and geographical imbalances in our country.
They will also play a part in fostering the growth and potential of our High Streets. Indeed, the Chancellor has also mandated central government to devolve more powers to local councils so they have more powers over taxation and control how revenue from business rates are invested.
With newly devolved powers, this is an exciting time for local authorities and indeed for the smaller businesses that operate in their areas. By bolstering local responsiveness to businesses’ needs, both local authorities and SMEs have much to gain.
We will never be able to match the might of the internet as a platform, but the devolution of powers, signifies a real investment in smaller businesses, giving the High Street a sporting chance. Maybe the long term ambition should be to make sure that every Saturday is a small business day.