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Small businesses feel more prepared in second lockdown, data reveals

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Two third of SMEs in England have reported feeling more prepared in the second national lockdown, according to new data from Barclaycard.

The research found that business owners knew what to expect going into this lockdown and had made changes to make their company more resilient, with 66 per cent feeling more prepared than the first lockdown. Barclaycard Payments SME Barometer data also found that SMEs across the UK are going online to stay ahead, with just under half increasing their online presence since March 2020; its data shows sustained growth in online payments to SMEs, with e-commerce transactions up six per cent since last quarter

And in encouraging signs, almost three quarters of SMEs are looking to invest in their business over the next 12 months.

The top reasons given for feeling more prepared were mental preparation (36 per cent), the changes they’ve made to their business to make it more resilient (32 per cent), and the Government support in place (14 per cent).

With regard to e-commerce, SMEs are turning to this as a way of recapturing some of the opportunities they’ve missed out on, with just under half (45 per cent) increasing their online presence since March 2020 – with website improvements (67 per cent), putting services online (66 per cent) and social media advertising (64 per cent) cited as the measures which have had the most positive impact.

Barclaycard Payments data show that small businesses are being rewarded for adding the ability to take online payments, with e-commerce transactions at SME merchants up six per cent since last quarter, and up 16 per cent year-on-year.

Looking ahead to next year, nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of business owners are planning to invest back into their business. The most popular areas for investment are marketing (29 per cent), and new equipment/technology (28 per cent).

Prior to the lockdown announcement for England on October 31, 63 per cent of SMEs expected to return to 2019 levels of output by the end of 2021, although the latest restrictions may make this less achievable for some businesses.

Konrad Kelling, Head of Small Business at Barclaycard Payments, commented: “The past year has been incredibly difficult for SMEs across all sectors, so it’s reassuring to see that many have been able to take advantage of the lessons learned during the first lockdown to adapt their business ensuring that they are able to continue to serve their customers.”

He recommends that SMEs invest in the ‘new normal’ with regard to your online presence and make sure people know who’s behind your business – many customers are looking to support their local SMEs during these tough times, so make sure your customers know the stories and people behind your business.

Emma Jones, founder of small business network, Enterprise Nation, added: “SMEs have again and again proved their resourcefulness and flexibility in this crisis. They have been proactive in looking at ways to adapt their business for a Covid economy – with investment in online tools, and having staff working from home all crucial to their ability to ride out the latest round of pandemic disruptions. In light of all of the economic setbacks, SMEs are hopeful that 2021 could bring back a degree of normality – and we are hopeful that they will persevere.”

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