Square launches new report outlining challenges facing the UK’s smallest businesses

Square CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey appeared at the Thinking Big for Small Business event in London’s Westminster this week sharing his vision of how technology can help power the UK’s small business community. The event took place on the first day of London Tech Week and saw Dorsey in conversation with Enterprise Nation CEO Emma Jones MBE.

Dorsey launched a new report from Square into the UK’s microbusinesses — those with fewer than ten employees — which make up 96% of businesses and account for 33% of employment.

Dorsey commented: “We’re here in London to discuss how to bridge the gap between the innovation of financial technology and the millions of small business owners across the UK who stand to benefit. We want to ensure that technology has a positive impact on the success of small business owners and their daily lives.”

Square’s report shows that it is the very smallest of businesses that often find it hardest to access the technology, finances and information they need to run and grow. Issues highlighted in the report include:

  • Access to finance: microbusiness owners are more than twice as likely to have had a loan application rejected, compared to businesses employing between 50 and 249 people**
  • Card acceptance: Just six out of 10 UK microbusinesses accept card payments, compared to almost 9 out of 10 businesses with between 10 and 249 employees***
  • The challenges of recruiting and retaining skilled staff
  • A need for clearer online advice on obligations under taxation and employment law

Clicks and Mortar
Earlier this month Square and Enterprise Nation announced the launch of Clicks and Mortar, an initiative to connect online-only sellers with unused retail spaces, allowing them to sell in-person for the first time. The first store opened in Manchester last week and will be followed by others across the country throughout 2019.

Emma Jones MBE commented: “Technology plays a huge part in offering small businesses new opportunities to diversify and grow. One recent example is our partnership with Square on the Clicks and Mortar campaign which is opening up shops to enable online sellers to test physical retail and accept in-store payments. We’re supporting small businesses to have the ideal blend of online and offline sales to help them thrive amidst changing economic conditions.”

Bank and ATM closures
Today’s event came as small businesses continue to face challenging trading conditions. Since 2015, 3,300 bank branches have shut across the UK, with an additional 488 ATMs closing each month.**** These conditions make it tough for small business owners to access basic banking services in their local area, and tough for shoppers to access cash. With an estimated 3 million UK SMEs not yet accepting card payments, Square has been working to empower small business owners to take card payments, often for the first time, as well as to encourage shoppers back to high streets to pay by card.

Square has also established partnerships with a number of cash-heavy communities across the UK which have helped local businesses accept digital payments. The first, in the town of Holywell, North Wales, resulted in 95% of high street shops accepting card payments, many for the first time. This was followed by similar initiatives in Batley & Spen in Yorkshire, Darwen in Lancashire, Bishop Auckland in County Durham, and Rochford in Essex. 75% of the businesses using Square in the UK are located outside of London.

Square’s own research found that 47% of shoppers seek to pay by card over other payment types, compared to only 30% who prefer to pay with cash. In fact, the preference for paying by card rises to as high as 56% among shoppers aged 25-34.

For those that were unable to attend the event, please visit Twitter.com/SquareUK to watch the Thinking Big for Small Business event in full.

Image: Square Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey meets Emma Jones MBE, CEO of Enterprise Nation to discuss the challenges facing the UK’s smallest businesses. The pair joined forces to pledge support for UK SMEs as part of a series of Square events for London Tech Week.

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