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The last 12 months have changed a lot of things for small businesses up and down the country. Lots of businesses have taken steps to get their local businesses online, so at Opayo we wanted to speak to small online retailers to find out how they’re feeling where you are...

Yorkshire and the Humber

Yorkshire and the Humber is the most optimistic place in the UK to be a small business owner. While only 50% of the region’s indy retailers said they were positive about trade today, an emphatic 100% said they were fairly, or very, positive about the future. These traders have changed the way that they work, shifted their focus online and are ready for a big spike in demand. 

North West England

From Liverpool to Manchester via Blackpool and Chester, the North West is the most consistently positive region in the UK. 71% of small business owners say they feel fairly, or very, positive about today. When it comes to the months ahead that rises to an impressive 86%, with the majority pointing to online sales and social media as big drivers of future growth. 

North East England

The Rise of the Online Local looks like a trend that’s only set to increase in the North East, with the majority of small business owners in the region saying that the last 12 months have helped them attract wholly new customers. While the positivity ratings for today are only hitting 54%, that jumps to a feel-good 85% for the months ahead. 

South East England

63% of small businesses in the South East say they are feeling positive today. That rises by a notable 21% – up to 84% – when talking about the future.  A significant number of small businesses in the South East say they have diversified during the pandemic and are selling new types of products or services. This has helped them to generate income and grow. 

East Midlands

The mood across the East Midlands is steady and upbeat. 69% of local retailers say they are currently feeling fairly or very positive. Looking ahead, that rises to 77%. Here, small businesses report that online sales have proved a lifeline over the past 12 months and that they’ve found it easier than they expected to transition to online selling. 

South West England

Perhaps reflecting the popularity of the South West for staycations, several of the small businesses in this region are looking forward to a definite increase in revenue in the months ahead. While 63% say they’re currently feeling fairly or very positive, this leaps up to 75% when the focus is on the future. 

East of England 

There’s an air of cautious optimism in England’s Eastern counties. 65% of small businesses say that they are fairly or very positive about their situation today. 72% say they feel positive about the future. As a rule, retailers across the region agree that while their businesses don’t necessarily feel more resilient, they have become nimbler over the last 12 months.

West Midlands

Across the West Midlands, 63% of small businesses are feeling positive about today and 69% are upbeat about tomorrow. Many of these local retailers report that online revenue accounted for 80% or more of their recent sales, agreeing or strongly agreed that it will be businesses with a digital presence who will be more successful in the future. 


Showing that the Rise of the Online Local is just as important in cities as it is in smaller communities, 86% of London-based indy retailers say being seen as a local business has become increasingly important over the last 12 months. 65% of these traders say they are feeling positive today, with 69% saying they feel optimistic for the future. 

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, there’s a marked difference between how positive small business owners are feeling now (33%), and how positive they’re feeling about the future (67%). One of the factors that may be feeding into that is the high percentage of retailers in the region who set up a new business in response to the pandemic. Now they’re established, they’re looking to grow. 


Scotland tops the list of regions who are most positive about their situation today (73%), but that optimism drops when it comes to considering the future (60%). Some of the small business owners we spoke to admitted that they hadn’t done much to innovate over the last 12 months, while others said Brexit had decreased their ambitions to sell overseas. 


All the small business owners we spoke to in Wales say that they have diversified their activities in the past 12 months. That has helped them survive but hasn’t led to growth: potentially a reason why optimism amongst small businesses is currently lower in Wales than in the rest of the UK (22%). Even so, looking ahead, positive feeling is increasing: up by a substantial 22%, to 44%. 

It’s clear that whether some regions were feeling relatively upbeat or other regions feeling down spirited at the start of the year, the resolve of the UK’s independent retailers means they are looking ahead to a brighter future.

*Based on research with 160 small online UK businesses, commissioned by Opayo in partnership with Discover® Global Network.