Has the pandemic been good for small businesses?

The pandemic and various lockdowns have caused many businesses to close their doors forever, with even established, household names such as John Lewis feeling the impact. However, new research shows that the pandemic may have sparked a small-business renaissance. Could these new enterprises utilise the empty offices and department stores littering the UK?

There has been a surge in both new founders, and loyal consumers. Data from Cornerstone Tax shows that 28 million Brits want to support their independent, local businesses more than before, and research from Tide shows that the pandemic has been the reason for 26% of new businesses opening this year. This matches Companies House data that shows there were 21.8% more businesses were incorporated this year than last.

However, many questions remain, particularly - what will happen to vacant office space now so many people are working from home, and to departments stores now so many have closed their doors forever? We have seen skyrocketing demand for warehouses and storage units. Therefore, property experts suggest that empty department stores and office spaces may well become hubs for manufacturing and localised delivery services, and may well become homes for the wave of intrepid new entrepreneurs forming new businesses.

David Hannah, principal consultant at leading tax advisory firm Cornerstone Tax, comments on what could be next for the UK high street:

“By no means has the pandemic been a positive, however, it has made many of us rethink our priorities, and for some, this has meant chasing the dream of founding a business. The data clearly shows it has sparked a wave of new business founders who are committed and confident about the longevity of their enterprises.

This goes hand in hand with many traditional ‘9-5’s’ no longer needing as much office space now at-least partially working from home is the norm. I believe that these two factors may coincide – and empty offices, as well as the department stores and retail parks now dormant, may become homes for these new SMEs – potentially as logistics hubs for serving their local market.

We have also seen them being used by Amazon for faster local delivery, and John Lewis even plans to turn stores into apartments. However, it would be a very happy ending if the new wave of small businesses could utilise this space to help the entrepreneurial-renaissance we are witnessing.”

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