SMEs v. COVID-19 – the start of a direct-to-consumer revolution?

As the coronavirus pandemic impacts economies around the world, resourceful small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are going direct-to-consumer (DTC) to beat the disease and ensure their commercial survival.

At the beginning of 2020, SMEs accounted for 60 per cent of employment and half of private-sector turnover in the UK. By April, 3.9bn people in 90 countries were in an advised or enforced state of lockdown, and the world had changed. As normal life ground to a halt, so did the means of trade and commerce that shape the global economy. In the UK, the Government had to take unprecedented steps to keep businesses afloat and workers employed, from catering to construction, hospitality to hairdressing. SMEs – the lifeblood of all national economies – would be the hardest hit of all.

Footfall goes digital

With the limiting of social contact, the ability for consumers to shop in person has been drastically curtailed, and footfall has gone from an established norm to a restricted activity.

Companies whose products and services rely on an in-store or face-to-face experience are now looking to find some sales salvation in the online world – many for the first time. Research conducted in 2019 showed that only half of UK SMEs were actively selling online, and that one in four had no web presence at all.

With a need to capitalise on a new digital revenue stream, SME brands and community organisers have begun to organise online hubs for those without the capacity or expertise to get online in a short timeframe.

Creative locals

Creative Locals, is just one of these. Established by the founder of Mahbir Teas & Spices, Mahbir Thukral, the platform has been set up to help independent businesses reach a broader audience in their local communities and beyond during the lockdown period.

Similarly, Mighty Small, an initiative started by the GS1 UK community partner, Young Foodies , has brought together challenger brands in an online supermarket, to promote smaller companies under one virtual roof at a time when retailers are concentrating on more established product lines.


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