Local cafes, restaurants and night-time venues will be celebrated through a new campaign throughout the summer, to help raise the profile of small firms as the country prepares to reopen on Monday.
After months of disruption, Monday 19 July signals the end of restrictions for businesses across England. To mark the day, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is launching its #MyHiddenGems social media campaign in the English regions, shining a light on great small firms and helping to share their stories.
The campaign focuses on businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic – often the first to close their doors and the last to reopen.
As restrictions have gradually eased, the more traditional tourist hotspots have seen huge number of visitors and summer bookings, while other areas including some of the big cities are experiencing much lower footfall than usual.
FSB research shows businesses in the sector carrying some form of debt has risen from 59% pre-COVID, to 77%. Many are also having to navigate difficult staffing situations because of employees being told to self-isolate.
While it’s important to highlight just how tough the past year has been for small firms, many will now be looking to the future and beginnings of an economic recovery- and small firms should be at the forefront of this. Today’s campaign provides a way for everyone to celebrate their favourite small business across social media, tagging the business if they have a handle, and sharing it with all their friends and followers.
Ian O’Donnell, chair of FSB’s England Policy Unit, said: “After 16 months of disruption, Monday’s reopening will be a big moment for small businesses and the self-employed. Many will be breathing a sigh of relief, particularly in sectors like nightlife, hospitality and events, which have been unable to open or operating on a much restricted and smaller scale.
“Although small firms will now be looking to the future, many have been burdened with high debt levels at the same time as funding their own reopening, which may have been marred by employees being told to self-isolate by the NHS app despite testing negative. On top of this, business rates bills for the hardest-hit are set to return, VAT deferrals are due and furlough support is being withdrawn.
“As we take the next step, it’s so important that small firms are at the forefront of a strong economic recovery and are given the support they need, and we have set out a plan to support tourism and hospitality that will help them recover. As consumers, we all have important choices to make, which would help our local small business community at the time it’s most needed.
“With our membership spread across the country we’ve been able to build up a picture of how reopening has been going. With some of the more popular tourist hotspots overrun with visitors, other areas including big cities are experiencing much lower footfall than they would usually expect.
“This campaign gives people the opportunity to shout about their favourite small firm, whether a café, shop, pub – anywhere you want to share with others!”
FSB’s recent report A Menu for Recovery put forward a series of recommendations to governments to help the sector recover including calling for a new hospitality and tourism strategy, overseen by a minister, an extension tp the hospitality VAT rate reduction to 5% until March 2022, and 100% business rates relief throughout the full financial year for businesses in England.
FSB has raised these issues at the highest levels of government and is pleased that the Government has now announced a new hospitality strategy, to be overseen by the Small Business Minister, Paul Scully MP.
From today, FSB members and all small businesses and sole traders are being invited to share their ‘hidden gems’ on social media using the hashtag #MyHiddenGems.