Buying British sees SMEs flourish on marketplaces

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SMEs are flourishing in the UK and Buying British brands is more popular than ever before in the international market, according to a study published by GS1 UK, the standards body that licenses barcodes in Britain. The not-for-profit organisation has seen a significant year-on-year rise in the number of SMEs joining their membership, a reliable bellwether for the increase in successful new start-ups.

In recent years GS1 have had a big push to make it easier for SME marketplace sellers to join and obtain official GTINs for their products and it would appear that SMEs have joined in droves. SMEs now represent the majority of GS1 UK’s 39,000-strong community, and almost a third of their members are below the VAT threshold turning over less than £80,000 annually.

“Last time we published our Buying British report, SMEs with a turnover of less than £500,000 represented 58% of our historic membership roster, with 78% of new joiners fitting into that bracket.

Two years on, 64% of our overall community is accounted for by these smaller firms, with 84% of those joining in 2018 having a turning over less than half a million pounds.”
– GS1 Buying British in 2019 report

GS1 UK’s members span across more than 25 industries, and new members mainly sat within the organisation’s historically largest sectors – health, beauty and cosmetics, apparel and food and grocery accounting for 41% of all new joiners. Smaller sectors with more room for disruption showed prodigious year-on-year increases, such as children and baby products, which posted 32% growth from 2017–18.

The explosion of online marketplaces has also benefitted small British retailers too, creating a global “iStreet” that is expected to generate £21.3bn by next year and it’s not just the big marketplaces eBay and Amazon that are driving growth. Smaller marketplaces are cited by GS1 members too.

“Amazon and eBay were cited by 61% and 30% of our 2018 new joiners respectively as their retailer of choice. Smaller marketplaces, like Trouva, Fruugo, Down Your High Street and The Great British Exchange are giving SMEs more routes to market than ever before, with social media according them an opportunity to speak directly to potential new customers.”
– GS1 Buying British in 2019 report

However GS1 add that while marketplaces present companies with an invaluable commercial foothold, less than one in five retail purchases is being made online. It is still vital for SMEs to try and stake a claim to a spot on the crowded high-street shelves.

“Today’s shoppers have the world at their fingertips when it comes to product choice, and they are increasingly choosing to buy British for the quality, innovation and traceability implications it has. They are also keen to support smaller shops offering local produce wherever possible.
“Our membership data indicates a fertile retail environment for new and young companies. SMEs continue to enter the market and recent new joiners have helped drive growth in some of the smaller, more niche industries.
“Companies in these sectors offer unique, bespoke products, not available on the high street and shoppers appreciate the breadth of choice that smaller shops and suppliers add to the larger retailer mix.
“At a time when our global reputation has taken a hit due to the political palaver, in the commercial world, “British” is still a byword for excellence.”

– Gary Lynch, chief executive officer, GS1 UK


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