Manchester: A City of Online Shopkeepers

26th June 2019, 12:17 pm

Physical retail stores now make up only 16% of small businesses in the UK, as traditional bricks and mortar businesses continue to decline, according to new research from Yorkshire Bank. However, Manchester may be as much a “city of shopkeepers” now as it ever was ‐ the research reveals that 54% of businesses in Manchester sell their products online.

The findings come from a unique piece of research from Yorkshire Bank, part of CYBG plc, which takes into account the attitudes and opinions of 2,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs from a range of sectors in the UK’s 10 largest cities.

The benefits of taking a business online are clear, with 70% of small business owners in Manchester saying online technology has enabled them to increase their customer base, while 52% revealed it has enabled them to expand internationally. Birmingham tops the rankings with the highest figure of all UK businesses with 69% believing tech has enabled them to expand internationally.

The research reveals that online marketing opportunities may be the key to reaching wider audiences and increased sales. A bigger appetite for digital marketing is driving high growth businesses* success. 71% of high growth businesses in the UK stated they use social media as a core marketing channel, compared to an average of 59% for the rest of businesses. Within digital marketing, paid search is a weapon of choice for high growth businesses, with 74% saying it is an important tool.

Looking more closely at social media platforms, Facebook was ranked highest among business leaders in Manchester with over three-quarters of business leaders stating it was the most important as a digital marketing tool, with Twitter (64%), LinkedIn (53%) and Instagram (53%) following behind. Regional variances are also clear ‐ in Leeds, Facebook is the most popular platform, whereas Bristol businesses favour Twitter and LinkedIn is the preferred channel in Edinburgh.

With the working world ever evolving and changing, more agile approaches from businesses aren’t just limited to retail space, but to workspace too. The findings from the research revealed that nearly a quarter (24%) of small businesses in Manchester operate from a shared office space, and this peaks to more than half in Birmingham (58%). Nearly a quarter (24%) of small businesses in Manchester are now not office based, with staff either working from home or not having a physical office.

Gavin Opperman, Group Banking Business Director, CYBG, said “It’s no secret that high street stores have struggled in the face of competition from global online retailers, yet despite this, the UK’s SMEs are adapting to the challenge and doing amazing work in the digital space

“New technology is constantly being developed that changes the digital landscape and in turn, the platforms that companies can utilise. This country’s entrepreneurs have shown that they have what it takes to seize those opportunities with both hands. The growth in the use of social media platforms and e-commerce can be particularly enabling for SMEs, greatly growing their customer bases. It doesn’t surprise me that so many people are making the most of the digital space and embracing digital channels.”

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