First some good news. It turns out that even with cost-cutting being a fact of life for many, shopping locally remains a priority. In fact, of the 2000 people we surveyed, 78% said they thought it was important to shop locally this festive season. More than half of the people surveyed also said they are doing it to help put money back into their local economy.
Want more good news? 51% of people surveyed said they saw their local businesses as an important part of their community. With 67% saying they considered a local business owner as a friend.
What is worrying small business owners?
We also surveyed 500 small business owners about what worries them. It turns out their biggest concern is being able to afford their energy bills through the forthcoming winter.
In order to help, we’ve teamed up with entrepreneur and business advocate Deborah Meaden to look at what small businesses can do.
“It is clear that many small businesses are concerned about making enough sales over the Christmas period and managing other pressures, such as high energy bills. It is important that small businesses don’t suffer in silence and do look at what support is available to them.”
It's been a difficult time for everyone, and it's been no different for independent retailers. They've been battling price hikes and cost of living, but they've shown remarkable resilience and agility in what has been a really difficult period.
78% of consumers think it's important to support their local retailers this festive season, and over half of them believe that local business is important to their community.
And while this is good news, independent retailers are worried. They say Christmas is key and many are concerned about making enough sales over the festive period, as well as managing the other pressures.
At the top of their worry list is how to pay their energy bills because energy price hikes have significantly increased their running costs. I'm here to talk about a few of the things independent retailers can do to help them navigate this winter period.
Check your energy bills. It sounds obvious, but it's really important. And taking steps to manage your energy bills, such as getting a smart meter will really help. Smart meters put an end to estimated bills, and that means that you pay for the energy you use when you use it. And that helps with your budgeting and your cash flows. More and more small businesses are getting smart meters and installations are happening right now. Contact your energy supplier to see if your business is eligible.
Seek help. Don't suffer in silence. Speak to your bank, to your accountant, to HMRC, your energy provider, and make sure if you do attend a meeting with them that you have all of the information that you need to ask for their help.
Understand the parts of your business which is generating the most profit and spend most of your time focusing on them. Budgets are tight at the moment, but here's a couple of things you can do to help promote yourselves.
Make sure that you promote yourself locally online. Think about guerilla marketing. You can often do as much through your phone as you could do in really expensive camera kit when submitting.
Deborah: When's our meeting?
Office colleague: Now...
Deborah: Communicate with your team. A few small changes can make a huge difference. Everyone has ideas to bring to the table, and bringing your staff in at the start will help them embrace any of the changes that you want to make, be it switching off devices when not in use, not filling the kettle to the brim or turning the thermostat down.
You'll save money and also be kinder to the planet.
For further information, visit www.smartenergyGB.org.
Deborah’s top tips for small business owners this winter:
1. Check your energy bills and ensure you only pay for what your business uses
This can help with cashflow and your budgeting.
Many smaller businesses are eligible for a smart meter, which will give you accurate bills, not estimates. Installations are happening now, so to find out if your business is eligible for a smart meter, go to your suppliers website by typing their name in the box below.
If your small business works with a Third Party Intermediary (TPI) or broker, please contact them directly to request your smart meter.
2. Seek help - don't suffer in silence
If your business is getting squeezed this winter, don’t suffer in silence, seek help. Speak to your bank, your accountant, the HMRC, your energy provider. Remember also if you attend a meeting with them make sure you take all the information you’ll need to ask for their help.
3. Focus on the most profitable parts of your business
Understand the parts of your business which generate the most profit and focus on them. There are a couple of things you can do to help promote yourself. Firstly, ensure you are promoting yourself locally online. Also, think about guerrilla marketing, which you can do at low to no cost using just your smart phone.
4. Communicate with your team
A few small changes can make a huge difference. Make the most of the team around you as everyone has ideas to bring to the table. Involving your staff at the start of the process helps them embrace any of the changes you want to make.
Want to find out more?
- How to request a smart meter - Find out how you can get a smart meter for your small business.
- The benefits of smart meters for small businesses - We lay out all the potential benefits in getting a smart meter for your small business.
- Reducing costs for your small business - Find out how you can get costs down, including getting a smart meter!
How long does installation take?
Installations normally take about two hours and are arranged in advance so that you can make any necessary arrangements beforehand to ensure minimal disruption to your normal business operations.
Is my smart meter accurate?
Smart meters are as accurate as traditional meters. By law, all smart meters have to be approved by and certified by the Office of Product Safety & Standards to prove their accuracy. If you believe that there's a fault with your smart meter you can report it to your energy supplier in the same way you do now.