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The turbulence of the last two years has demanded ongoing agility and resilience from the UK’s small businesses. In response, independent retailers have adapted and diversified, with most moving, or expanding, online. 

As the UK continues to adjust to the realities of the pandemic, Opayo and our partner Discover® Global Network wanted to know how small businesses are feeling about the future. So, we commissioned a report, asking retailers to tell us what they thought would be critical for success in the coming months. 

To read the report in full, just click here. Or read on to discover why many of the nation’s small businesses are feeling increasingly confident about the months ahead...


Expectations Of Growth

Almost three quarters of the UK’s small businesses feel optimistic about the future, with 71% saying they anticipate growth in the next 12 months. The widespread expectation is that this growth will be led by online sales. 

Early in the pandemic, the Rise of the Online Local became a strong trend that saw communities migrating online to support their regional retailers. That shift to digital is predicted to continue. Whilst three-quarters of small businesses continue to want customer-facing premises, an emphatic 90% either agree or strongly agree that retailers with a digital presence will be more successful in the future. 

“Having an online presence is as important as having a physical presence.” 

Isaac Stott, Brand and Marketing Director of Lincolnshire’s Seven Districts Coffee. 

In fact, 82% believe that retailers without any form of digital presence are unlikely to survive. So, it’s no surprise that businesses are focusing on ensuring that customers have a good online experience. The centrality of ecommerce is driving many of today’s retailer priorities... 


Capitalising On Growth

One of these priorities is the need for small businesses to position themselves to capitalise on growth. Currently, only 17% say they are well set up to deal with a rapid increase in demand, while 6% say they would be utterly overwhelmed. 

The majority feel confident that they could scale up to capitalise on growth.  They’re looking to future-proof their businesses by investing in key online services, including click and collect, video advice, clear digital signage, and an optimised check-out process. 

One critical aspect of this is the importance of investing in multiple payment options. That’s highlighted by research carried out in July 2020, which found that 60% of Discover® cardholders search for their preferred payment method before shopping in international e-stores. A further 84% of cardholders say that they’re likely to return to international sites if their preferred payment method is offered.


Fuelling Growth

Cross-border trade clearly offers tantalising prospects for growth, but it’s not the only way to expand an online audience. Another is investing in social media, with 77% of small businesses now selling via a social channel. 

Retailers are also responding to the increasing consumer interest in businesses’ ethical and environmental credentials. 

“Something that has been important to us is the sustainability and environmental impact of what we do... We want to take our customers on this journey with us, and it’s working. For example, we had a jumper designed by one of our artists that was printed with vegan ink. It was expensive, but we did it as a limited edition. It sold out within two and a half hours. The customer feedback we got was so positive because we made a jumper that was against throw-away culture.”

Lucy Hull, co-owner of Whitley Bay gift shop For The Love of the North.

75% of small businesses say that interest in these areas has increased in the last 12 months. That trend looks set to intensify as the UK invests in a greener recovery.


Keep reading

At Opayo, we’re here to help small businesses open up, today and tomorrow. All these findings are available to read in full, here. And, in October we’ll be publishing another report, looking closely at how things have changed since March. Stay tuned!

Download the report

We spoke to the following business owners from each region:



More information


Rise of the Online Local

Across the country, 74% of the UK’s small business owners say they’re feeling positive about the future. Does their experience reflect yours? What are the factors behind the upbeat mood? Find out what independent retailers like you have to say.

Find out more

Optimism Heatmap

We support small businesses to open up, today and tomorrow. So we set out to ask local traders how they felt at the start of the year, and how they’re feeling now. Have a look at our blog and heatmaps to learn more.

Find out more