We know the TV adverts inside out by now, and whatever you think of them – and the fact we’ve all seen them plenty of times before our calendars have turned over for December – they do show the power that advertising has to get people talking about Britain’s big brands.
But what of the small businesses? Christmas is important for Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury’s, but even more so for our local small businesses.
For small independent retailers Christmas is vital to continuing success and they need our support. That’s why the timing of this year’s Small Business Saturday is so important.
Small Business Saturday, on December 6 (www.smallbusiness saturdayuk.com) is a national campaign with a local focus. It challenges all of us to walk past the glitzy advertising and Christmas deals and visit our local small businesses. The initiative exists to support, inspire and promote small businesses.
We’ve heard lots about the “death of the high street”. But I think the obituary is premature, and we can put our money where our mouths are next week: support our local economies, keep our local high street thriving, and maybe find a present that is more individual as a result.
And it isn’t just retail where small businesses count. Local bars and restaurants are at the heart of our communities. Small businesses keep Edinburgh’s massive flows of tourists happy, from the guest house to the guided tour.
They are what drives our economy – employing 42 per cent of people working in the private sector. That is why it is important to listen to them and as a shadow business minister I always do. Last year’s membership of the Federation of Small Businesses highlighted that aside from concerns on the economy as a whole, their second biggest concern was the cost of energy.
Just over a year ago Labour announced that we would freeze energy prices and reform the market if elected – and I think it is just as important now as then. Not just for households, where we see bills rising much faster than wages, but for small businesses too.
My passion for Small Business Saturday isn’t a partisan one – this campaign is supported by all parties. It comes from my former position as a small business owner.
Before I was an MP, I had a number of small businesses: I ran a hotel, I ran a few pubs, I started my own events company, and I even ran an internet TV studio. I know what it is like to succeed and fail as a small business owner, and what a commitment it is. Anything that can help those working 60 or 70-hour weeks, employing and training our young people, and working to turn a profit in a competitive and expensive city can only be a good thing.
That is why we should support small businesses, not just on Small Business Saturday, but throughout the year.