New research has revealed the huge contribution the Summer Economy makes to the UK economy.
Data shows coastal SMEs contribute £3.15bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy and support 269,000 jobs, with 10,900 SMEs in coastal areas relying on seasonal summer trade.
Coastal businesses looking forward to a bumper summer
SMEs on the coast are optimistic that the coming summer will bring much-needed trade, as nearly two thirds (64%) of those surveyed believe the period will be good for their business. Seaside businesses disproportionately rely on the summer months of June, July and August being a success, with SMEs surveyed saying that, on average, they generate almost half (47%) of their annual turnover in this period.
These businesses are enjoying a post-pandemic boom, as nearly three quarters said their area has become more popular with tourists since the pandemic, with the same amount saying their business has benefitted from an increasing number of people coming to their area for holidays. According to YouGov Travel Profiles data, over half of UK respondents planned to take a domestic trip in 2023. An analysis of Three’s network data reflects this increased footfall, as places like Blackpool experienced an average surge of 31% in network traffic during the peak months of July and August.
Seaside SMEs have unique needs
At the same time, more than three in five of the coastal businesses surveyed said the summer months bring additional pressure on their business and over two thirds said they feel the contribution of seaside businesses to the economy is overlooked.
This underlines the importance of understanding coastal businesses’ unique needs, as over two thirds said the way they operate is vastly different from SMEs based elsewhere.
This includes recruitment, with over three quarters of seaside SMEs surveyed hiring seasonal workers. Yet despite two thirds (66%) saying people move to their area to find work in high season, nearly two in five say finding seasonal workers is a struggle.
Connectivity – including phone data and internet connection – is also a priority. Almost all SMEs surveyed said connectivity was important to the every day running of their business for a multitude of reasons, including taking card payments while out serving customers, communicating with staff who are working in nearby pop ups, or offering connectivity to customers, with almost half saying that the majority of, or all, customers also use their WiFi when using their services.
Meanwhile, as their business peaks and troughs, almost half (45%) feel their business is losing money on a fixed contract, while over half wish they could scale their phone contracts to match with seasonal demand.
Coastal and rural connectivity will be further boosted by Three’s merger with Vodafone UK that will see £11bn invested in UK connectivity over ten years creating one of Europe’s most advanced 5G standalone networks.
Snehal Bhudia, Director of Propositions and Marketing, Three Business, who commissioned the research, commented: “Coastal businesses make an enormous contribution to the UK economy every year, with the summer months being the crucial trading period. During this time, they have more staff, more customers and a much greater need for strong and flexible 5G connectivity.
“Understanding this, we offer a range of SIM only and broadband propositions ideal for these circumstances, so our customers can make the very most of the summertime opportunity.”
Katy Alston, Business owner of Pinks Ice Cream Parlour in Bognor Regis, commented: “We’ve been in the ice cream business for over 20 years – starting with our ice cream van and then setting up Pink’s Ice Cream Parlour four years ago. We’ve built the business from scratch into a real experience for new holidaying customers and it’s been so rewarding to see it become a genuine part of the community for our regulars.
“The summer months are crucial to our business – if we have a good summer, we can survive the quieter winter months. We are feeling positive for summer this year and we’re already seeing more ‘staycationers’ coming to visit our lovely seaside.
“To keep up with demand, connectivity is essential. The world is a different place from when we started. Hardly anyone uses cash anymore, most people pay by card or phone. Our card machine is run off mobile data while we’re out in the van and if we lose signal, we can easily lose hundreds of pounds in a very short space of time, which is devastating. Strong connectivity also helps us keep in regular contact with the team as they’re spread over different locations. Ultimately, connectivity gives a small business like ours the opportunity to play the same game as the bigger companies.”