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UK small and medium-sized businesses returned £18bn to local community in 2020

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Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
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RICHMOND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: The partially deserted shopping high street in Richmond-Upon-Thames during the UK's third COVID-19 lockdown on January 19, 2021 in Richmond, London . With a surge of covid-19 cases fueled partly by a more infectious variant of the virus, British leaders have reimposed nationwide lockdown measures across England through at least mid February. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Nearly three in five (59%) undertook some form of charitable initiative: whether volunteering time; offering their business premise for free; giving discounts to NHS workers; or donating cash. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) played a pivotal role in supporting communities through the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, contributing an estimated £18bn ($26.1bn) through community initiatives such as volunteering or cash donations.

That's according to the new SMB Mutuality Report from Intuit QuickBooks and Oxford Economics, which also found that on average in 2020, each SMB gave: nine hours per month in staff volunteering; £679 in cash donations and £372 in product or service donations.

Despite the UK experiencing the biggest fall in economic output on record in 20202, and 22% of SMBs saying they are at significant risk of closure in 2021, they went above and beyond to support their local communities in 2020.

Nearly three in five (59%) undertook some form of charitable initiative: whether volunteering time; offering their business premise for free; giving discounts to NHS workers; or donating cash.

And half (51%) of SMBs focused their efforts towards their local community – demonstrating that SMBs are an essential foundation of communities across the UK.

In turn, this was mirrored by an upswell in support and appreciation for SMBs from the general public, with 43% of consumers now more likely to shop at SMBs compared to before March 2020.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak to launch £100m UK taskforce to target COVID fraudsters

Digitisation was an essential part of maintaining both SMB’s relationship with communities and their ability to trade, with 73% of small and medium-sized businesses becoming more digital in 2020 – with a third (36%) of those who launched a new digital product or service last year saying they could not have continued to operate without it.

With the Chancellor poised to detail further support for SMBs in 2021 in the upcoming Budget, the report shows how critical these businesses are to the UK, bringing value beyond just economic benefits.

Chris Evans, vice president and UK country manager at Intuit QuickBooks said: “It takes real resilience to move fast, change and pivot, but what’s amazing is this pivot has put digital at the heart of communities.

Communities are more connected and this has created a circular effect where small businesses do more for their communities, while communities do more to support them in turn.”

Digital was crucial in making SMB support for their community possible – and keeping these businesses trading.

Of the 73% of SMBs that became more digital, 74% reported becoming more digital as important to their ability to contribute to and support their local community and wider society, while 88% said this was important for their business to continue operating.

Overall, 22% of SMBs began offering digital products or services through existing platforms, such as Uber Eats or Amazon, while 13% launched their own digital product or service, such as an online store or click-and-collect. More than one in ten (14%) of businesses did both.

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