From 750,000 temporarily closed, 85,000 businesses launched online

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During the Coronavirus lock down, 750,000 businesses were forced to temporarily close their doors and shut but 85,000 businesses launched online shops as the lock down creating a digital boom. The reality is that many of these businesses should already have been online. The lock down has advanced the digital economy both getting businesses launched online and accelerating digital transformation for those businesses who already had an online presence.

Some of the numbers of businesses launched online or started selling on marketplaces are staggering: 8,665 clothing retailers, 7,912 consumer goods, 5,285 home & garden, 3,277 sports and leisure, 2,856 arts and music, and 2,333 motors and parts businesses all made the jump for the first time according to new research from Growth Intelligence.

With research showing that millions of people have been shopping online for the first-time during lockdown and this new demand set to continue, many businesses that would historically have distributed via shops, restaurants or distributors have started selling direct to customers for the first time.

Businesses launched online during lock down

Businesses included in the data set tell an encouraging picture of adapting to meet need demands. They include:

  • Vanilla – An independent ladieswear shop in Norfolk which has been running for 23 years, after being forced to close doors the owners worked to launch an online shop and it’s been going “really well”.
  • Threaplands – a garden centre based in Moray, Aberdeenshire, launched an ecommerce store due to lockdown and it’s been so successful they will continue to develop it.
  • The Paper Lounge, a company selling minimalist, fold-away paper furniture has made the most of the post-ability of its products and launched a new website.

Businesses launched online by region

Different parts of the UK have experienced varying rates of digitisation. The South West has seen the most businesses who launched online shops in relation to the total number of businesses in the region, with 4,170 online shops created. The South West is followed by Yorkshire and The Humber (3,313 launches) and the East Midlands (3,120). Scotland has seen the smallest proportion of businesses launching ecommerce offerings (2,277).

Growth Intelligence’s AI monitoring found that of the 762,250 businesses that were forced to close due to Covid, only 308,861 (41%) have fully reopened, with 453,389 (59%) either still closed or trading under severe revenue-limiting restrictions such limited hours, limited locations, seeing clients by appointment only, adding waiting lists, cancelling historical orders or only serving key workers. However, with many employees still on furlough and movement still restricted, tens of thousands of businesses are surviving and even thriving by pivoting their business model online.

“It’s remarkable to see the speed at which small businesses across the country have adapted. Being unable to trade in the traditional sense has been a catalyst in driving digital transformation and where one door has closed, this nation of shopkeepers has forced another to open. Thousands of businesses are making the most of the tremendous opportunity that growing demand for online shopping is creating. While our data shows a very slow return to what we previously considered ‘normal’, the new environment is opening new markets and this will reinvigorate the economy.”
– Tom Gatten, CEO, Growth Intelligence

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