Brits’ uptake of new pastimes provides big boost to small businesses

  • Small businesses have benefitted from Britons’ blossoming new hobbies to the tune of £1.8bn, according to new research from American Express Shop Small
  • Over a third (38%) of Brits took up a new hobby to get them through lockdown
  • Almost a third (32%) of spend on new pastimes is in small businesses
  • A huge majority (94%) plan to stick with their hobby now restrictions are easing
  • Gok Wan, TV Personality and American Express Shop Small Ambassador who took up running during lockdown, is backing the Shop Small campaign and calling for people to continue to support local businesses

Photo credit: David Parry/PA Wire.

From baking mug cakes to the new craze for crotchet, the past year has seen Brits adopt a whole range of new pastimes to keep themselves busy during the restrictions. New research from American Express Shop Small1 reveals that over a third (38%) of Brits have taken up at least one new hobby in an effort to keep themselves busy during lockdown, which has provided a welcome boost for the nation’s small businesses.

Hobby-happy Brits have spent an average £23.81 per month2 on pursuing their new passions, with almost a third of the money invested being spent in small businesses. This equates to an annual boost of £1.8bn3 for the nation’s small businesses, who have remained resilient in the face of an incredibly tough year.

Arts and craft stores, book shops and garden supply outlets are among the small businesses benefitting from this boost, as their offering meets the needs of some of the most popular new pastimes.

Top five most popular new hobbies and pastimes according to the research:

  1. Arts and Crafts (28%)
  2. Cooking (27%)
  3. Gardening (27%)
  4. Baking (24%)
  5. Reading (24%)

Despite the easing of restrictions, Brits are not about to abandon their newfound passions as they reacquaint themselves with freedom. A huge majority (94%) of those who have taken up a new hobby said that they would stick with it even after lockdown restrictions have eased.

Gok Wan, TV Personality and American Express Shop Small Ambassador can really relate, having taken up running and spending more time cooking during lockdown, he’s rediscovered new passions in life. The presenter was running at least three times a week during the height of lockdown, and kept fans updated on his progress through regular social media posts, plus cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Gok is backing the American Express Shop Small campaign and encouraging others who have taken up new hobbies to support local small businesses and turn to them for their expertise. Having grown up working in his family’s small business means he understands, first-hand, the importance of backing the independent stores in our high streets.

Gok comments, “I think we can all agree that lockdown was a tough old time for everyone, and we all had our own ways of getting through it. One of mine was cooking, which gave me something positive to focus on. Small businesses like Divertimenti are a great place to find any kitchen utensil you need! I’d urge anyone who’s taken up a new hobby to check out the small businesses in their local area and see what’s on offer. It’s more important now than ever to support them and you can find some real gems. It’s such a great way to give back to your local community.”

To encourage Brits to continue to back their local small businesses, American Express is running its Shop Small Offer once again this month, giving Cardmembers a £5 statement credit when they spend £15 or more in any participating small business across the country until 25 June 2021.³

Dan Edelman, General Manager, UK Merchant Services at American Express said, “Our Shop Small research shows that Britain is in the throes of a real hobby revival; one that is capable of providing a real and sustained boost to the nation’s independent retailers, as these hobbies turn into habits. We’re calling on all new hobbyists to check out their local small businesses and, in turn, provide much-needed support for their local communities.”

  1. Research conducted by Censuswide among 2005 general UK consumers between 14 – 17 May 2021
  2. £23.61 average monthly spend figure is taken from research conducted by Censuswide, asking respondents their average monthly spend across ten hobbies and taking the average from these separate figures
  3. £1.8bn figure was calculated using the Censuswide data (as above) and mapping this against ONS UK adult population, as follows: a) Number of respondents in Censuswide research stated they had taken up a new hobby = 37.86%b) 86% of ONS UK adult population (52,383,965) = 19,832,569 peoplec) Average spend per year : 12 x £23.81 (as before) = 285.72d) Average spend which in spent with a small business = 31.85%e) 19,832,569 x 285.72 x 0.3185 = £1,804,799,874 (£1.8bn)
  4. The Shop Small Offer is valid for use up to 5 times, once per Card and per participating location, up to a total of £25 in statement credits. It is available from 5 – 25 June 2021. Participating small businesses and full terms and conditions can be found at

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