‘Small Business Saturday’ hopes to boost the UK high street in Black Friday style


James Moore
Friday 06 December 2013 17:21

It’s one American import that may find favour with even the most passionate opponent of the UK’s importation of US culture.

Today sees an attempt to launch Small Business Saturday on this side of the pond by persuading shoppers to turn their backs on big chains and instead spend money at smaller, local operators.

The idea began in 2010 in the US with the aim of encouraging shoppers to support local, independent businesses on the first Saturday of December, the day when in theory Christmas shopping starts in ernest.

It is claimed to have generated billions of dollars in extra sales and the launch of a British offshoot has generated widespread support.

So far the independent campaign doesn’t have major sponsorship, but has nonetheless managed to produce and distribute marketing material and generate publicity.

Vince Cable’s Department of Business, Innovation & Skills will also this morning announce a package of measures designed to boost the sector to mark the occasion.

These include the provision of broadband vouchers worth up to £3,000 each to 22 cities across the UK to assist small firms with faster and better connectivity and a deal with major energy firms to end auto-rollovers for business customers, limit back billing, increase transparency of contract terms and make switching easier.

In addition to improving access to £230bn of public sector contracts the Government will also ensure that small businesses who supply the public sector in a supply chain will be paid at the same time as large contractors.

A consultation on new measures to tackle late payment in the private sector will be launched at the same time.

Mr Cable said: “I meet with small businesses regularly who tell me about what government support works well and what doesn’t. Through our commitment to small firms we are directly addressing that feedback, freeing them from unnecessary burdens, providing more finance and improving access to advice and support.”

Gary Ochitree, the proprietor of Krypton Comics, a small firm in Walthamstow said he would support any measure the would help boost traffic.

However, he said: “The main thing that would help small businesses would be easing restrictions on parking. What stops most people going to small shops is they can’t get there.”

Mr Ochitree, who has had to move premises twice for this reason, said: “The internet is a help, because you can get your URL out there. But people go to big stores because they have car parks which can be easily accessed. That’s something smaller firms can’t compete with.”

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, urged policymakers to focus on the issues faced by small firms on a day which was “about celebrating small businesses” particularly the continuing difficulty securing finance.

“The government is right to say that Britain is a great place to start a business. Now it needs to become a great place to grow a business, too,” he said. “That means ensuring that fast-growing and dynamic small companies get access to the capital they need to expand.”

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