The festive season entered full swing across the nation this weekend – with a wave of community events and celebrations to mark Small Business Saturday and support independents in the crucial Christmas shopping period.
From Barnet to Belfast, Bromsgrove to Bridgend, hundreds of festive markets, craft fairs, and pop-ups took place up and down the country featuring small firms, as the UK’s annual Small Business Saturday returned this year on 4 December.
In its ninth year, a grassroots, not-for-profit campaign, Small Business Saturday was originally founded by American Express in the U.S. in 2010, which remains the Principal Supporter of the campaign in the UK. On Small Business Saturday, customers across the UK go out and support all types of small businesses, online, in offices and in stores.
The occasion saw local councils and business improvement districts getting creative to celebrate the campaign to encourage people to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses. Brixton’s iconic market hosted a special event with a steel band performing festive tunes, while a ‘Snowman’ installation was seen in Ashton town centre and a Santa Dash in Barrow.
Residents from Dover to Stourbridge to Aberystwyth turned out to watch Christmas lights switched on and visit local craft fairs. And councils from Dover to Gloucestershire suspended parking charges to help drive footfall into town centres. Pop-ups featuring wreath-making and local makers were seen across cities like London, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Backing was also received from across the political spectrum, with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak publicly supporting the campaign, as well as Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) December 4, 2021
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak also shared a video message from his visit to the independent Cherry Hill garden centre in Middlesbrough, where he helped staff dressed as elves to greet families arriving to visit Father Christmas.
A host of members of parliament across the UK also stepped out in force to visit small businesses in their constituencies, while business groups including the CBI, BIRA, Small Business Britain and British Business Bank also added their weight to the campaign.
A special message of support was issued by the Prime Minister, with Downing Street releasing a video featuring Boris Johnson calling on the public to support small businesses as he met UK food and drink producers at a showcase event last week.
However, campaign organisers have also warned that despite the boost given by the occasion, small firms will need sustained backing from the public throughout the crucial festive season and beyond, as many face fresh uncertainty and challenges.
Michelle Ovens CBE, Director of Small Business Saturday, said: “Small Business Saturday is always a joyful day which gives small firms important time in the spotlight.
“It’s phenomenal to see so many amazing local, festive celebrations making a come-back across the country to support small independents.
This week, I got into the festive spirit to mark #SmallBizSatUK @SmallBizSatUK. 🤶
At @CherryH_Garden in Middlesbrough, I saw just how important small businesses are to local economies - and spoke with some very surprised Christmas shoppers...
Watch 👇 pic.twitter.com/TgWpth5nzJ
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) December 4, 2021
“However, Small Business Saturday is not just about one day. Small firms are facing lots of challenges and hurdles, and many have been facing setbacks for a prolonged period now.
“We all need to rally and get behind our wonderful small businesses throughout the winter and beyond.”
Small Business Saturday generated huge awareness on the day, trending on social media, and seeing many of the UK’s 6m small businesses take part in the day by hosting events, offering promotions, and collaborating with local councils, community groups and business owners.