Every shopper and consumer knows it is vital they continue to support their high-street shops and to make a special effort to buy from them in the run-up to Christmas – or they won’t be there next December.
In case you missed it, Small Business Saturday was held on December 4th this year in a bid to boost sales by the smallest of British companies.
One microSME chosen by the organisers is Didsbury, Manchester-based Giddy Goat Toys, an independent toy store run by owner Amanda Alexander. It is a traditional toy shop, run by enthusiastic and experienced staff.
They take a special pride in helping customers find the ideal gift or toy based on the child’s age and interests, as well as the customer’s budget – and which maybe can’t be found on the shelves of the supermarkets.
Many of us will, of course, go to supermarkets for the Big Christmas Food Shop. What is heartening is how often the big supermarket chains – Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – do try to help young British food suppliers by giving them space on their shelves.
In November 2021 no less than 1,000 food and drink firms applied to join Morrisons’ start-up programme. Birmingham-based Winny’s Kitchen is the latest specialised producer to launch with the grocer: its Jerk Sauce is now available in Morrisons’ condiment aisle.
Shaun Sookoo, chief executive of Winny’s Kitchen, welcomed Morrisons’ move to offer entrepreneurs a fast-tracked route to a national market through the programme.
It gives emerging British businesses the potential to sell products in its stores and listings in other parts of the business including Morrisons.com and wholesale channels such as Amazon.
To support successful applicants, Morrisons assembled a team of in-house experts to help with advice and support covering every aspect of retailing, from production to packaging and marketing and logistics.
Darren Smith, sourcing manager at Morrisons, said: “We’re a huge supporter of British food making but we know that getting an idea to market can be a complicated process and some companies need some help to get there. Through our Growing British Brands programme we have been able to spot exciting brands like Winny’s Kitchen and its delicious Jerk Sauce.”
In my time researching British small companies over the past 30 years, I’m constantly surprised by the uniqueness and niche products devised by home-grown innovators.
In Chorley, Lancashire, long-established Tuba players George Barker and Carl Mercer thought they could design and create a better mouthpiece – most especially for the UK’s many world class brass bands. They launched Mercer & Barker Ltd in the autumn of 2019 and tuba players worldwide can now play far better, they claim, using precision-built, brass instrument mouthpieces.
The company states: “The mouthpieces are not only aesthetically pleasing but have been developed and designed to improve core sound, adaptability and secure intonation across all registers.”
Some of the UK’s top musicians have tried-and-tested the products – and the reviews speak for themselves. Over the years they have worked closely with respected tuba figures in the banding world such as Shaun Crowther, Simon Gresswell and Andy Cattanach to tailor their small but expanding range of products.
From tiny pieces of engineering to very large ones: a company on Tyneside is our next SME with global reach. Next time you are boarding a ship, an oil rig, an aircraft, a new building or railway station, the solid secure gangway you’re walking on was probably made by the little-known, venerable company Tyne Gangway (Structures) Ltd based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Established in 1934, Tyne Gangway has a long tradition of making gangways for civil engineering projects, in shipbuilding and defence, moving from old riveted structures through to those today made of sleek lightweight aluminium alloy.
At one point they were the largest supplier of gangways in the world, boasting in 1965 that they had supplied gangways and accommodation ladders to 78% of the ships completed in the UK.
Finally, a new type of easy tennis is coming to your town soon. Why? Tennis players Sir Andy Murray and former British No.1 Andrew Castle have founded and invested in Game4Padel Ltd, a company funding the construction of courts over the UK.
The new sport, padel tennis, is played in a glass cage and combines elements of tennis and squash. The ex-director of the All England Lawn Tennis Club responsible for hosting the Championships, Michael Gradon, and tennis commentator Annabel Croft are also involved in the project.
Starting in Mexico, padel spread rapidly throughout South America before gaining popularity in Europe, and participation numbers are now on the rise here too. Padel courts have sprung up in southern England, and the group hope to open new venues around the UK, including one at a golf course near Glasgow.
Mr Gradon said golf course sites are often preferable due to their out of town locations, whereas tennis clubs are often situated in residential areas. The sport is strongly aimed at children, and tennis clubs with dwindling membership numbers may benefit from putting in padel courts to boost interest.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Murray believes the game is about to boom. He has just returned from Sweden, where the game has already exploded. He explained: “It is huge over there and it is becoming very popular here too. It is a great game because it’s so easy to pick up.”
As 2021 moves into a fresh new year of enterprise, there is no end to the variety of entrepreneurial UK SMEs.