A Raise in Independent Businesses Across the UK in 2017

Like many cities, the highly glamorous big street brands predominately overshadow independent businesses and the region of the West Midlands is no exception.

Websites such as Independent Birmingham attempt to advertise independent businesses across the city in a boost to sway people from going to their go to high street brands. With this promotion, businesses across the city are still not noticing an increase in customers.

Naomi Payton, Events Manager at Fletchers Bar and Kitchen Garden Café, says websites such as Independent Birmingham, who try and promote smaller businesses, says it doesn’t help bring in numbers as people may think.

“Fletchers does receive some custom because of the website – not huge amounts of people. We offer 10% on food so we find that customers come in for a meal and then just drink water and don’t actually spend much in total. It is used by ‘deal hunters’ mainly,” said Payton.

Although it’s difficult for smaller independent businesses, it does appear that for niche business sectors, independent businesses are doing better than those ones on the high street.

2017 saw a noticeable rise of independent businesses across the UK with an increase of 197,000 since 2016, and 2.2 million more than in 2000.

Employment in small businesses also contributed hugely to the overall employment in the private sector which stood at 16.1 million; 60% of all private sector employment in the UK in 2017.

Lee Beddow setup Abbey Sound Recording Studio in 1984 in Rugeley, Staffordshire. He says even though his business is not located in a big city, he still receives clients from across the region.

“It’s actually perfect – from Rugeley, I attract clients from 3 areas – Stoke, Stafford and Walsall / Wolverhampton. The only area I don’t get [clients] was Litchfield, as customers there went towards Birmingham.”

“I work in a very niche industry, so there’s usually some work available. I have combined the studio with teaching so I have a regular fixed income, allowing me to not worry about attracting a huge customer base anymore.”

“There definitely is a more personal service that I offer and I know I have customers who come specifically because of me personally, rather than just a nameless face,” said Beddow.

Beddow also says the decline of the music industry and the lack of money being generated in the sector has led to artists looking for cheaper and alternative ways of recording.

“There has been a decline – some bands feel they can achieve the same results with low cost software, they can’t, by the way! Also, there are less bands / musicians around sadly.”

Beddow truly believes there will always be a place for small business.

“There will always be a place for specialist small businesses, especially with being able to operate / advertise / promote via online & social media channels. The point of being able to supply specific bespoke services is important, as I feel people do like the personalised touch for certain products / services.”

Figures courtesy of Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

Jack Williams


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