Small Business Saturday
The FTSE 100 gets a mention every day in our news bulletins but over 99% of businesses in the UK are in the SME category - small and medium sized enterprises. They are the lifeblood of our economy, employing some 14.4 million people, and last year turning over £1,600 billion.
Locally in Maidstone and the Weald there are hundreds of SME's covering almost every conceivable facet of business; manufacturers, distributors, farmers, retailers and service providers. They are a pillar of community life but they too rely on our support, particularly the retail sector.
Last Saturday I was delighted to join the Kent Branch of the Federation of Small Business on a tour of our bustling County Town to mark the second annual 'Small Business Saturday' event, promoting some of the SME's in our town centre.
The first Saturday in December is one of the busiest shopping days of the year and an ideal opportunity to 'shop local'. Last year the initiative is estimated to have influenced a spend in excess of £460 million up and down the country and is expected to increase significantly in 2014.
As a longstanding former SME owner and employer myself it was great talking to so many enthusiastic managers and entrepreneurs in a mix of marvellous offerings; Harpers Gifts, Ronald White Photographic and Optical Specialists, Sew A Good Yarn, and Charmian Beaton Jewellery to name just a few! Maidstone proudly boasts one of the largest selections of independent retailers in the country.
The Government is backing small businesses through a number measures: the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief, a full structural review of business rates and support for millions of new apprenticeships.
The best support, however, comes from all of us. 'Small Business Saturday' takes place but once a year; our local SME's need us all year round. As the Christmas crescendo develops, we can all remember to shop local whenever we can.