One in three small business owners predicting best festive season for five years

The early till-ringing spree has prompted a third of SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) owners to predict this December could be their best in five years.

Barclaycard’s data shows year-on-year transactions at SMEs in the third quarter of 2021 were up 21.9 percent across the board.

Retail payments surged 15.6 percent during the period, while food and drink purchases spiked by 27 percent.

Leisure and entertainment firms experienced the biggest SME trade uplift, with a 54 percent year-on-year rise in payments.

Colin O’Flaherty, Barclaycard Payments’ head of small business, said: “While the overall economic backdrop remains challenging amidst rising prices, slowing economic output and muted consumer confidence, UK SMEs continue to impress me with their resilience and their focus on controlling what they can control to meet the needs of their customers, as they’ve weathered the ups and downs of the past 20 months.

“There may still be challenges that lay ahead, but the data from our barometer indicates SMEs are right to feel cautiously optimistic about the prospects of their own business as they head into 2022.”

A joint Barclaycard and YouGov survey of 592 senior SME staff also showed 25 percent of them are convinced shoppers will be having bigger celebrations with family and friends this year, after being ordered to isolate from loved ones last December.

Only 11 percent of SMEs fear the fallout from COVID-19 will be their biggest barrier to success in the next 12 months.

The majority of businesses polled (71 percent) cited that they have put measures in place to limit the impact of supply chain shortages.

More than half the respondents (54 percent) believe the pandemic helped “future-proof” their business.

Nearly 40 percent are planning to reinvest in their businesses by hiring more staff, while more than a fifth (22 percent) will extend product ranges, and 29 percent are planning to upgrade their technology to enhance their customer offering.

Kate Hardcastle MBE, business and consumer expert, said: “It is exciting to see that so many British businesses feel they’re coming out the other side of the pandemic stronger – but they must remain cautious to the macroeconomic environment, which is vital as we head into what is typically their busiest trading quarter.

“This positive picture can be attributed partially to their agility and ingenuity, but also to the UK public, which has doubled down on its efforts to support small companies and their local high streets.”

Butchers T.H. Burroughs is one of the UK’s estimated 5.6 million SMEs that has successfully navigated the impact of COVID-19, thanks to their ability to be nimble and meeting consumer demands with new products, services and ways to engage with the business – such as click and collect, home deliveries, and subscriptions.

The Swindon store’s owner said his survival secret was a mix of adding more choice ahead of this year’s early Christmas shopping frenzy, and managing demand by hiring more permanent staff and taking on an apprentice.

Graham Burroughs added: “Our business always grew by word of mouth, but since the start of the pandemic, our trade increased significantly.

“Footfall almost trebled as customers returned to small businesses, and nearly two years later we have seen regular repeat customers from the local community.

“As a seller of local produce, we are not overly concerned with the current supply chain issues, and are confident that with our suppliers, our customers will have the produce they need this Christmas.”

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