Coronavirus hit the UK back in March of this year, that’s when the whole of the UK went into Lockdown. Everyone was affected by it in some shape or form. Kids couldn’t go to school; adults were asked to work from home if they could. Some even stopped working and went on furlough. Businesses took at hit, especially small businesses. However, in the midst of all the bad, there was some good. This was the increase of small online businesses. Businesses where people shared their artwork, their passions of remaking clothes out of old clothes and using beads around the house to make earrings.
Since the beginning of lockdown, Growth Intelligence new research has found out that 85,000 businesses have launched online stores or joined online marketplaces in the last four months. Growth Intelligence used Artificial Intelligence to read and interpret business websites across the UK’s SME ecosystem and it has identified the highest number of new ecommerce offerings ever recorded in a four month period, according to a UKTechNews article. The fashion and Apparel sector has had the highest increase of businesses opening eCommerce sites since February with 8,665 companies adding online payment methods.
Alice Dew is the founder of Dewyoucrochet, a small online business. She is a third year student in Newcastle who studies journalism. She creates slow, sustainable fashion and gifts like hats, jackets, bralettes, earrings and adorable animals. She started her businesses in late June 2020 and said she created her businesses because she learnt how to crochet, and her friends wanted some of her pieces. She said: “I think small online businesses have become popular because since lockdown in March I have seen so many new businesses, as I think lots of people had more time to do crafty things.
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“I absolutely think that young people are more interested in small online business as they are more aware of the impact of large conglomerates. Plus, small businesses can be much more personal, and the gifts will be unique which is always a plus.” Alice mainly uses Instagram to sell her products, but she also uses Depop for premade pieces. She made her business online to reach a worldwide platform. She said: “I think that other people’s influence [creating a business] persuaded me slightly, but it was more of a personal choice influenced by my friends and family.”
Instagram is a huge platform, following information given by Sprout Social, about six in 10 Instagram users log in at least once daily. It’s the second most logged in social media site for daily use after Facebook. Twenty-one percent of users log in weekly and 16% log in less often than that. The shopping feature on Instagram is relatively new, this feature now lets you buy products on Instagram very easily. You can now search for products then add them to your bag then checkout. According to Sprout Social, a survey found after seeing a product or service on Instagram, 65% of people visited the brand’s website or app. 46% made a purchase online or offline, and 31% of people followed the brand’s account online.
Fashion North also spoke to Nicola Campbell who works in the Economic Development Team at Newcastle City Council as a Economic Development Officer. She helps support the work they do in the Business and Intellectual Property Centre, supporting start ups and SMEs in Newcastle and across the region. She said: “Businesses have been majorly affected by the impact of Covid and their ability to trade. With retail closures, cancellation of events, trade fairs, exhibitions and markets, businesses have had to seek new routes to market and the online platforms have played a key role in providing this.”
It is a difficult time for businesses owners, small or not. They are losing money because of the lockdown and unable to build up the revenue. Take the Arcadia Group for example, well known companies like Topshop and Miss Selfridge has gone into administration. So, is it really a good time to start a new business? Nicola said: “Some of the best businesses have started in a recession, if you can make it work in difficult times then you are getting off to a strong start.”
Most small online businesses are mostly ran by the younger generation, such as Alice Dew (Dewyoucrochet), she said it is because younger people are more aware of the impact that larger corporation produce. However, younger generation see things more as trends; things that are popular at the moment. Creating small businesses could be classed as a new trend to some people.
Nicola Campbell disagrees: “It’s not so much a trend but a necessity. We see businesses of all ages and length of establishment looking to adapt to consumer buyer behaviour. I think for new businesses starting up, having an online presence is seen as a key element, whether that’s as simple as being on google with basic details, a website or online booking system.”
Georgia Wade is the founder of Frayed Neon. She is a student in Newcastle and started her business during the first lockdown. She told fashion North that ‘lockdown gave her the opportunity to get back into sewing’ and that’s how she started her business. She said: “Frayed Neon is about making beautiful corsets from unique materials and upcycled clothing to give them a new life. They are either one offs or very limited editions.”
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She continued to say: “Online was the only means of starting my business in lockdown and I have been seeing more and more small online businesses pop up.”
The Coronavirus lockdown (both times) have been very difficult times for everyone and yet in the midst of all the bad things, some good things have come out of it. People have learnt to appreciate what they have and turn a bad situation into a good one.