Recently Suella Braverman the MP for Fareham delivered a keynote speech to the EBay Local Business Webinar. Present at the meeting were over 200 business experts from across the UK, many of whom manage SME’s in the Solent LEP region. Suella was quick to reiterate the Government’s commitment to supporting local small and medium sized enterprises and spoke knowledgably on the future of digital commerce.
The MP for Fareham went into detail regarding how the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan will impact SME’s, providing much needed support and economic buoyancy in this time of uncertainty. She was pleased to announce that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – known as the furlough scheme – will be extended until the end of November to cover the new restrictions with employees receiving 80 per cent of their current salary for hours not worked, up to £2,500 a month. Fortunately, businesses will have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or even furlough them full-time.
Similarly as part of the Government’s commitment to British business, Suella explained to the audience that the Conservative Government is extending the application deadline for loan guarantee schemes – that is, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, to the end of January 2021. This will give businesses two extra months to make loan applications (relative to the current deadline of 30 November).
Additionally, many SME directors in the audience were keen to hear that the Government is adjusting the Bounce Back Loan Scheme rules to allow those businesses who have borrowed less than their maximum (i.e. less than 25 per cent of their turnover) to top-up their existing loan. Adding that the Government understands that some businesses did not anticipate the disruption to their business from the pandemic would go on for this long; and as such this will ensure that they are able to benefit from the loan scheme as intended.
The MP for Fareham eloquently moved on to the future of e-commerce in Britain. Never before has the importance of remote commerce been so vehemently underlined than in today’s world, where we are physically unable to contribute to the economy in more traditional and archaic ways. Suella Braverman stated that this was a blessing, calling upon business to welcome with open arms new and innovative digital solutions and to synthesise and integrate them into our traditional economic activity.
This move to online commerce is reflected in the most up to date statistics. The latest ONS data shows that as of September 2020, online retail sales now account for 26.1% of total UK retail sales. Similarly, the most recent BRC/KPMG Retail Sales Monitor shows that non-food retail sales declined on average by 5% between September 2019 and September 2020, whilst online non-food sales increased by 26.3% on average. More locally there are over 400 businesses selling on eBay in the Fareham constituency and over 4,000 in the Solent area. It is likely that around half will have bricks and mortar businesses alongside their online business, and about two thirds would be small traders. These will be largely micro-businesses with fewer than 10 employees. As such, Suella commended the trailblazing progress made by business in Fareham which is at the forefront of the new digital era. Finally, Suella drew attention to the importance of having a hybrid business strategy were SME’s can complement their traditional revenue streams with new innovative electronic cash flow inputs.
Speaking at the Webinar Suella Braverman Said:
“It seems that for an age now, talk of this country’s relationship with Europe has dominated proceedings across the board from parliament to pubs. As we now begin to navigate towards a mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationship, it is important to remember who we are as a nation. Over 200 years ago, when Britain had an altogether worse relationship with our neighbours across the channel, the French General Napoleon Bonaparte rather disparagingly dismissed Britain as a mere “Nation of Shopkeepers” (une nation de boutiquiers). Despite the sneering intent of such an aphorism, it is my belief that Mr Bonaparte was spot on.
Britain was and continues to be, a nation of enterprise and trade. We are a proud nation of ‘shopkeepers’ defined by a common appreciation for innovation in the interests of commerciality and prosperity. It is the contemporary SME that epitomises this in-alliable characteristic more so than any other institution. The SME is the very backbone of this country, and in my opinion, what earns Britain the prefix ‘Great’.
It is no secret that Twenty-Twenty has been an unprecedented year for the whole of the United Kingdom from Fareham to Falkirk. Together all of us have felt the economic ramifications of this global pandemic as its shockwaves have reverberated across Europe. Similarly, this year has been marked by economic uncertainty and lamentably it has been our SME’s that have suffered disproportionately.
That is why I am proud to be part of a Government that understands its indebtedness to small and medium sized business and their owners and one that is going above and beyond to ensure stability and buoyancy for Small to Medium Enterprise.
Throughout this crisis, our priority has been clear: to protect lives and livelihoods. Whilst me must all come together to ensure the first, we must not neglect the second. I know how worried people are – about their health, the health of their loved ones, their jobs, their businesses, and their financial security. That is why the Chancellor has recently announced new measures in his tailored Winter Economy Plan to re-vitalise and re-direct our economy and businesses on the path to prosperity.”