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It’s been more than 12 months of tumultuous change for small businesses right across the UK. To help independent retailers to open up today and tomorrow, here at Opayo we wanted to know the key factors that have helped small businesses during the last year. What’s helped businesses survive, and what’s helped them to thrive? 

So, we carried out a survey of 160 of the UK’s local retailers, asking:

  • How they were feeling at the start of 2021, as the roadmaps out of lockdown were first announced. 

  • How they’re feeling about the future. 

  • How they adapted their businesses during the pandemic. 

  • What will help their success in the months ahead.


Twin Retail Regions

One of the eye-catching results from the survey was the way different areas shared similar outlooks: Two regions that had a lot in common were the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber. 

At the beginning of the year, small business owners in both regions were feeling relatively sombre. In the North East, only 54% of retailers reported feeling fairly, or very positive, while in Yorkshire and the Humber, it was just 50%. 

But when it came to looking ahead, the mood in both regions improved dramatically. A buoyant 85% of small business owners in the North East say that they are feeling fairly or very optimistic about the future. In Yorkshire and the Humber the number reaches a resounding 100%. 


Bringing Regions Together

Given the similarities between these communities, we decided to bring retailers from each region together to explore the challenges, opportunities and successes they’ve experienced in the last year. 

What’s driving their optimistic outlook? What changes have they made that have helped to make their businesses resilient? 



We spoke to the following business owners from each region:


Sunny Bank Mills

John Gaunt, Joint Managing Director of Sunny Bank Mills, an art gallery and business space in Farsley, Leeds.

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Seven Districts Coffee

Isaac Stott, Brand & Marketing Director of Seven Districts Coffee, based in Lincoln & Leeds.

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Just Lovett Design

Sami Lovett, Founder of Just Lovett Design, a bespoke and personalised product and giftware business for weddings and events bas

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Breathing Space HR

Suzie Bogle, Managing Director of Leeds-based consultancy Breathing Space HR.

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For The Love Of The North

Lucy Hull, Owner of unique gift shop For The Love Of The North in Whitley Bay, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

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Unlocking the Power of Local

To find out more about how these businesses are preparing for the future, and why they’re feeling upbeat about the months ahead! Along with our partner, Discover ® Global Network, we’ve published a big report explaining how small businesses are looking to the future in a post-pandemic world. 

Find out more

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.  

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