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Policy ‘should be built on SMEs switch to digital’

Workers

Firms are increasingly adopting e-commerce routes to market

Scottish ministers are being urged to build an economic strategy around a shift towards online trading by small businesses during the lockdown.

A fifth of SMEs say that the coronavirus outbreak has led them to adopt new digital technologies and in some cases trade online for the first time.

In a new report Finding our Feet: Small Businesses and the Coronavirus Outbreak, the Federation of Small Businesses says that policymakers in Scotland should prioritise building on this trend.

About one in seven (15%) businesses said they either started selling online for the first time or have expanded their online offering. And one in 20 (5%) said the pandemic period has led to them introducing new services. Eight per cent say they have introduced new products.

The FSB says that the Scottish Government should launch initiatives to build vocational digital skills amongst Scottish entrepreneurs and workers. In addition, the research makes the case for a new drive to improve Scotland’s broadband and mobile coverage.

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Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “Half of Scotland’s smaller firms had to close during this crisis, either because of the government restrictions imposed to tackle the virus or because their customer base completely dried up. 

“But of the remainder, we see an impressive level of innovation and drive to keep sales and operations going. We’ve seen everyone from micro-breweries to local shops switch to home deliveries. We’ve seen yoga instructors offering remote classes and office-based firms embrace technology to stay in business.

“With silver linings in short supply during this difficult period, we must help firms build on this digital momentum.”

“Local government and Ministers in Edinburgh need to help these smaller businesses – who play such a key role in their community – re-open safely as soon as possible, providing financial support if necessary.” 

Small and medium sized firms sustain about half of Scotland’s private sector employment.



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