More than 31m Brits pledge to support small businesses this Christmas

Shoppers keen to back their local high streets as they face the most turbulent winter in decades

  • 58 per cent of Brits [1] are making more effort to support small businesses due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Two thirds of Brits are increasingly worried about the impact on their community if they lose local shops

  • 50 per cent of Brits say the pandemic has made them reluctant to visit shops, stressing the need for small businesses to have an online presence

More than 31 million Brits are keen to support small businesses this Christmas - as they worry their local shops could go bust, according to new research conducted by BT in the run up to the festive period. The poll of 2,000 consumers found that 58 per cent are making a conscious effort to help small businesses more because of the severe impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on trading over the past year.

The plight of local shops appears to be weighing heavily on the public conscience, as almost two thirds of those polled fear their local high street won’t survive the pandemic. The poll found that two thirds (66 per cent) are increasingly worried about the impact on their community if they lose local shops, with nearly 60 per cent agreeing that their community depends on local businesses. Coupled with the recent collapse of major retail chains, it’s clear the public are concerned about the future of their local high-street.

The affection the public holds for small businesses is strongly reflected in the survey results, with 48 per cent of respondents saying that small businesses play a key role in supporting local people; 45 per cent recognising the importance of small businesses in sustaining the economy; and 42 per cent pledging that small businesses provide vital employment.

Fears of contracting Covid-19 appear to remain post the most recent lockdowns across the UK, with 51 per cent of the public stating the pandemic has made them reluctant to visit shops. This reinforces the need for small businesses to have a strong online presence to help them survive the disruption of the pandemic.

Pete Oliver, managing director for SME at BT Enterprise, said: “The country’s small businesses have undoubtedly been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic, with national and local lockdowns severely impacting their ability to trade. It’s really heartening to see that communities across the UK are coming out in force to support local, independent businesses when Christmas shopping, as these small firms rely heavily on the festive period to generate the lion’s share of their profits.

“Although, with over 10 million Brits[2] preferring to do all of their Christmas shopping with small businesses online, it’s clear that small businesses need to adapt by moving online or risk being left behind. That’s why we launched our Small Business Support Scheme – to boost the connectivity, cashflow and confidence of small businesses through faster broadband, digital payments and digital skills, amongst other forms of assistance.”

In addition, the survey has also revealed that small businesses are facing increasing competition from bigger online retailers who are able to offer lower prices and faster delivery. According to the survey, top reasons holding people back from supporting small businesses include; the price compared with other retailers – with 32 per cent of Brits citing it as a barrier; a limited product selection, with almost a quarter of Brits (22 per cent) saying it was a concern; while no website presence was cited as a key concern by 16 per cent of the public. Other concerns include slow delivery, a lack of social media presence and data security issues.

 BT’s Small Business Support Scheme consists of a series of measures to help boost the connectivity, cashflow and confidence of small businesses and help them get poised for growth. Helping small businesses to boost their digital skills is a central part of the scheme, with BT pledging to help one million small businesses to boost their digital skills over the next five years through BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme. Alongside this, a dedicated mentoring programme for small businesses via Digital Boost will launch early next year, giving small businesses free access to BT’s expertise in strategy, marketing, and sales. Next year will also see the launch of a new digital marketing hub from BT to help small businesses to better promote their business online. Other forms of support on offer via the scheme and which are available now include:  a bursary scheme for start-ups; a new digital payments solution; and a wellbeing toolkit for small businesses.

    [1] Agree = agree and strongly agree options combined.

    [2] Over 10million Brits - 19% of surveyed Brits would like to do all of their Christmas shopping with small businesses online (54,098,971/100 x 19 = 10.2m)

    Notes to Editors

    • 2,041 Nationally representative UK respondents (Aged 16+) surveyed between 25.11.2020 - 01.12.2020.

    • When questions were asked on an agree scale, agree = agree and strongly agree options combined. Questions were asked as: Do you agree with the following statements

    About BT

    BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.

    For the year ended 31 March 2020, BT Group’s reported revenue was £22,905m with reported profit before taxation of £2,353m.

    British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

    For more information, visit www.bt.com/about