Small businesses shrug off ‘expert’ gloom to go for growth
Stage 6: Expand
Paul Skeldon
11th April 2017
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Despite swirling headwinds and expert predictions of economic disaster, Britain’s small digital businesses are optimistic about their growth prospects this year by a margin of two to one, according to the eBay for Business Index. 

Almost half (46 per cent) of the small online businesses surveyed are confident about their growth prospects, compared to just 19% that expressed pessimism.  Growth is expected to come from sales via exports and diversifying product lines, with entrepreneurs relying on their own commercial instincts and self-sufficiency to guide them. The eBay for Business Index is an annual barometer of Britain’s small businesses selling online. Over 200,000 of these enterprises trade on the eBay in the UK. 

Whilst commentary  around the future of the Eurozone and a  US trade deal often implies bad news for UK plc, small online businesses appear to be shrugging off any uncertainty, with over half (52 per cent) of the small business leaders eBay spoke to expressing fatigue with “experts” predicting “doom and gloom” that doesn’t then affect their business.

“I’m not saying the experts are wrong”, says Monty George, Managing Director of Furniture Box, an online furniture store that launched on eBay in 2015 and now turns over more than £1 million, “but things like the strength of the pound are shaped by forces outside our control, so whilst they can have an impact on business, you can’t let them affect your ambitions. As an entrepreneur you’ve got to be bold and invest for the growth of your business or idea.”

This is echoed by Steve Sanger, Director of British grooming brand The Beard and the Wonderful which launched its eBay store in 2015. According to Sanger, “there are always ways for entrepreneurs to respond to changing circumstances and take matters into their own hands. British grooming products are in huge demand right now, so take advantage of ready-made global infrastructure like eBay and get exporting. If anything, the weakness of the pound means there’s never been a better time to export. What’s important is to stay resilient and adaptable.”

This entrepreneurial attitude is borne out by vast majority (72 per cent) of the small business leaders eBay spoke to as part of its study, who are confident that they are the masters of their own destiny when it comes to the success of their business. 

Dieter Newell, Senior Director of Seller Growth at eBay in the UK said: “The Britain’s online enterprises are showing an impressive resilience in the face of economic uncertainty, with a quarter (24 per cent) telling us they have become better prepared for risks in the past year.”

“The ability to trade globally will be key to the continued success of the UK’s small businesses over the rest of 2017 and beyond. Our online marketplace has broken down trade walls for sellers, giving them access to a global network of over 164 million customers, meaning they are less at risk from domestic political and economic events.”

“That said, a number of risks remain, with a weak pound and consumer confidence chief among the concerns expressed by the businesses we’ve spoken to.”

The businesses surveyed in the eBay for Business Index identified five risks that could limit their growth this year

1)      Imports: A weak pound making imports more expensive concerned 22 per cent of SMBs

2)      Spending: A reduction in consumer spending limiting sales is seen as a risk by 41 per cent

3)      Brexit: Uncertainty caused by Britain’s exit from the EU is seen as likely to limit growth by 36 per cent

4)      A ‘Black Swan’: An unknown or unpredictable political or economic incident concerns 28 per cent of SMBs

5)      Broadband: unsatisfactory broadband internet provision could limit growth according to 12 per cent of respondents 

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Author: Paul Skeldon
Editor specialising in all things mobile.

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