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The Importance Of SMEs To A Post-Brexit Economy

How can small businesses benefit from conditions in a post-Brexit environment?

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How can small businesses benefit from conditions in a post-Brexit environment?

Opinions

The Importance Of SMEs To A Post-Brexit Economy

How can small businesses benefit from conditions in a post-Brexit environment?

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The media has been full of stories about Brexit ever since the final vote was counted 13 months ago. Much is still unclear about how the United Kingdom is going to leave the European Union, as well as the economic, social and political consequences.

There is, however, a growing opinion that the UK’s wealth of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will be leading the charge into the economic unknown, at least at a consumer level. This is especially true of the electronic cigarette industry, which appears unfazed by the referendum result.

One thing is sure and that’s the fact there is a great deal of uncertainty. While the complex matters of multinational workforces and a free-access economy are being discussed, it is the UK’s high street shopper that has boosted economic growth since the referendum.

With this in mind, could we be seeing a rebirth of the UK’s high street? It’s no longer guaranteed that large companies’ retail outlets will be successful, but is this due to the rise of online sales? Or perhaps these major retailers aren’t offering the right products anymore.

Either way, as our high street evolves, there is undoubtedly space for the flexible, dynamic business owner. Enter the growing number of UK SMEs.

The ‘New’ UK High Street

By now, everyone should be aware that consumers in the UK are becoming increasingly more likely to buy products and services online. The term ‘high street’ no longer correctly describes the primary retail options consumers are faced with.

Of course, its original meaning refers to a geographical location, but in an age of increasing WiFi coverage and 4G access, shopping is possible anytime, anywhere.

We have to view the high street as a hybrid of old and new. Physical retail outlets are well designed for their role, but online shopping offers greater convenience and choice.

shopping street in Salisbury

Salisbury town centre: UK high streets are evolving to fit a new online reality

As the number of self-employed workers in the UK increases, those that are offering retail services may not be able to afford to just have a physical shop front, their services may be better offered online, or both.

Either way, with consumers spending more and bigger businesses uncertain because of Brexit, conditions are perfect for smaller, personable entrepreneurs that provide quality rather than quantity.

Another important factor to consider is that ever since the most recent financial crisis, we are seeing growing discomfort with the globalisation model for big business practice. This places further importance on the UK’s SMEs; those that can keep up with the evolving demands will be well placed when the UK finally departs from the EU.

The End of Globalisation?

Business practices are changing. As Fortune suggests, “like it or not, sustainability is now core to your business”. While most of us still reside within a globalised world, more and more interest is being paid to the impact we have upon our immediate surroundings.

A greener Britain is on the horizon, with sustainable energy sources and a widespread desire to “buy local”. After all, flying blueberries in from Chile so we can maintain out-of-season consumption, for example, is fast becoming an unsustainable and unnecessary concept.

A further contributor to this ‘internalisation’ of the UK’s retail economy is the cost of importing. The Pound Sterling has been weak against both the Euro and the US Dollar ever since Brexit, so why import products or materials when you can produce them at home?

A great example of this is the UK’s e-cigarette industry. Its rapid expansion has been partly due to UK-based production and small-scale, ‘local’ economies. While new vape shops open daily, most of these specialist stores also sell online, supporting local products but understanding the potential of the ‘hybrid high street’.

It’s this type of business model — one that is fluid in its understanding of the market and flexible when it comes to its sales format — that will thrive in the uncertainty of our post-Brexit economy.

Sustainable Stability

Sustainability and stability are the words that will define the behaviour of the UK’s successful SMEs. Globalisation represents a hunger for profits, to strive to capitalise on every opportunity, wherever it arises.

For success in the UK, consumers are looking for the conscious business person who invests in their staff and develops business strategies that produce long-term growth, not short-lived successes. This might include international development, but at a more manageable pace.

farming

Consumers are increasingly aware of how products arrive in shops

In a society of minimum wage and zero hour contracts, offering stability within the workplace can produce stability for your bottom line. If consumers want to buy local, so too should businesses properly support their employees.

Promoting the development of localised economies can create a more stable economic structure, relying on multiple smaller connections, rather than a few large ones.

Stability does not have to be rigid, either. SMEs are better placed to react quickly to changes, be that on a one-to-one level with a customer, or on a larger scale.

This is a considerable advantage over bigger companies, which tend to fall behind the times and can’t keep up with consumer habits. Businesses must offer stability and flexibility in equal measures, as no-one can afford to allow potential customers to move on to the next provider.

Whichever way you voted in the referendum, there are opportunities to be had and great business ideas to be put into fruition. Don’t let the doom and gloom dampen your desire to build your brand and see your product or services become a reality.

Pascal Culverhouse is the founder of Electric Tobacconist.

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The Importance Of SMEs To A Post-Brexit Economy

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