Scottish businesses feel optimistic about 2021, according to latest Business Gateway survey

Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer, Business Gateway National Unit

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A SURVEY commissioned by Business Gateway, Scotland’s national business support service, has revealed that 40% of Scottish businesses feel optimistic about the future of their business in 2021.

The pandemic is undoubtedly still an area of concern for Scottish businesses, with 31% of businesses reporting that they felt positive about the remainder of Q4 2021, while 37% of businesses stated they felt either pessimistic or very pessimistic about the future of their business for the same period. However, these concerns lift slightly when asked about the rest of the year, with 31% of businesses reporting that they are pessimistic.

The research, which surveyed businesses at the end of February, represented a range of industries that have been impacted by the pandemic including retail and wholesale (11%), tourism (9%), hospitality, catering, and event management (8%) and food and drink (7%).

The survey also revealed that over 60% of businesses felt prepared to leave the European Union at the start of 2021. However, almost the same number (59%) still weren’t certain about whether this would have a positive or negative impact on their business.

Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer, Business Gateway National Unit said: “As we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown, we must take some positives from the results of this survey.

“We appreciate that the pandemic is not over yet, and for some businesses, this will continue to be a concern. However, it is welcome to see initial signs that some businesses are feeling more optimistic about their prospects. Going forward, it is important not to lose momentum and it will be vital that businesses continue to have access to a range of support, as they begin the journey back to a form of normality.”

The research also revealed that half of businesses surveyed 51% have not yet invested in their digital capabilities, though 21% of this number did indicate they were planning on doing so in the future.

This contrasts with 44% who have improved their digital offering since the start of the pandemic by improving their website (28%), investing in their social media platforms (22%), purchasing new IT equipment (24%) or starting an online service (21%).

Hugh added, “For many Scottish businesses the only way to survive the pandemic has been to digitally upskill and where possible, accelerate plans for digital transformation. This has provided many with a vital lifeline, letting them communicate and engage directly with their customers.

“Given this, and the finding that a number of businesses still haven’t invested in their digital platforms, we would strongly encourage all businesses to consider how they might want to improve their online offering and capitalise on the potential opportunities that are out there. Through DigitalBoost, Scotland’s national digital training programme, delivered by Business Gateway, business owners can access a range of free support and find the gaps in their digital performance to enable their growth.”

Over the past year, Business Gateway has continued to offer a wealth of expert advice and professional resources to successfully support businesses during this challenging economic period. With local offices and experienced advisers across Scotland, hundreds of businesses have accessed COVID-19 related support including how to cope with remote working, funding and grant assistance, guidance on digital and social media marketing, rebuilding sales and HR and mental health advice.  

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