It’s heartening to see the importance of small businesses being so widely and frequently acknowledged.
It’s also good to see government and key agencies recognising that ensuring small businesses remain in business helps the economy and safeguards jobs.
But clever plans and strategies will come to nothing if everyone decides to put their spare cash under the mattress and just batten down the hatches. The government knows this – hence the cuts in VAT and interest rates. The pity is that it doesn’t seem to be fully understood by others who should know better.
There seems to be a growing trend amongst the rich and corporate of cancelling company Christmas parties or recommending the home-made present solution this year for fear of attracting poor PR.
Parties and nice presents are hardly going to save the economy in themselves, but thinking only of your image simply demonstrates just how out of touch some directors or celebrities are with the way the real world works. It’s not about reckless spending, it’s about taking care about where money is spent and ensuring it goes where it can do the most good.
Those with budgets or influence have important parts to play. Berating others with plans to spend a little enjoying Christmas this year sends out completely the wrong message.
What will help is choosing to spend in our local shops and businesses. For example, the hotel or restaurant hosting staff Christmas parties will almost certainly employ people from the local area, as will the taxis taking people home afterwards. Hopefully much of their food, products and auxiliary services will come from local suppliers.
Even in these straitened times, the power of celebrity to influence buying behaviour still remains. Rather than opting for a low-profile celebration, how about a high-profile ‘Buy-British’ celebrity endorsement?
It’s an easy option to simply cut back on spending, but that helps no-one and makes hard times even more lacklustre. Even Jesus received a few special gifts in that lowly stable and the hard-working shepherds got a front-row seat at the party. So let’s hope those Christmas parties are not abandoned simply to avoid bad press. Rather, let the party make a rather eloquent statement about the importance of supporting local businesses, while thanking hardworking staff teams for their contribution throughout this difficult year.
* Denise Craig is the West Midlands’ Policy Manager of the Federation of Small Businesses