UK business owners are optimistic about the year ahead but need to get to grips with data and supply chains

UK business owners are optimistic about the year ahead, with 86% planning on growing their business, introducing new products or moving into new markets, despite the impact of both Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The turbulence of the past 12 months has posed many challenges and will continue to do so but according to the results of a YouGov survey we commissioned in early 2021, the consensus across UK’s businesses is one of optimism.

However, nearly a third of businesses are actually looking to cut costs and just one in five business owners’ plan on prioritising employees in the year ahead, despite record highs of unemployment and a mental health crisis following the pandemic.

For many, data is touted as the answer, but do business leaders know how to use it? Over 50% of the business owners interviewed by YouGov in February 2021 said they do not know what to do with the data they have, or that they simply do not have quality data available to them.

Meanwhile the survey revealed that businesses are prioritising price over sustainability when it comes to their supply chains. Over a quarter of those interviewed never audit their supply chain’s compliance with ethical and sustainability contract requirements.

Despite the changing attitudes towards more sustainable and ethical products and practices, 47% of businesses said they prioritise price in comparison to just 14% that prioritise sustainable and ethical practices. However, there are big regional variations with 21% of London businesses prioritising sustainability compared to just 9% in Yorkshire and Humber.

Jayne Hussey, partner at Mills & Reeve and a specialist in advising businesses, said: “Understanding where your products or services come from and who is making them is vital. The Sunday Times report on labour standards in many of the Boohoo related factories in Leicester resulted in the share price of Boohoo dropping by 25% within a few days.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the economy (and for that matter, the country) relies on a robust supply of goods. The impact of the early days of the first lockdown were exasperated for everyone by the lack of availability. Not only could consumers not buy what they needed (such as toilet rolls!), but companies with materials and component parts being in the wrong place, struggled to meet the demand. And not just in the short term, with many companies still struggling with challenges around the import and export of goods.”

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