To say 2020 was a challenging year, and the pandemic had an existential impact on Australian small businesses would be the biggest of understatements. Doors were closed temporarily or permanently, employers were forced to lay off hard-working employees, and people did whatever they could to keep the lights on.
While far from unscathed, Australia’s strong public health response has meant we’ve been able to avoid drawn-out lockdowns and as a result, business confidence is returning and sales are rebounding. Last year we launched the first Global State of Small Business Report to uncover the ongoing effects of the pandemic on businesses and saw a grim picture. But thankfully, the latest report findings show reason for optimism about the future.
Australians lead in confidence
Australian businesses are more confident than every other surveyed region, with 79 per cent of Australian SMBs confident in their ability to stay open over the next six months. Nearly a third (24 per cent) higher than the global average. That confidence correlates to Australia’s management of COVID-19, enabling businesses to stay open, when many across the world experienced tougher and longer lockdown measures. This saw local businesses fare better than most other regions, with less than half (42 per cent) of Australian SMBs this year reported lower sales than the same period last year. In contrast, the global average was 13 per cent higher, indicating that Australian SMBs are rebounding quicker than their international counterparts.
Last year businesses were required to accelerate their digitisation or risk complete closure. In the face of adversity, businesses created digital storefronts, gyms live-streamed workouts, restaurants became food delivery services, and almost everyone had to find new ways to reach customers who were locked down at home, no matter where they were around the country or world.
We saw businesses of all sizes do this but in particular SMBs. Sticky co-owners Rachel Turner and David King based in The Rocks, took their lolly business international by live streaming quirky videos to their online community. Their simple strategy resulted in building a loyal international customer base, and now 85% of their total online sales ship overseas to the US, Europe, and Asia. FADE WOMEN, co-owned by Kallie Hunter and Kurt Foggo launched their business from their Gold Coast garage at the start of the pandemic and used Instagram as their core channel to build their community. With their use of personalised ads across Instagram and Facebook, they were able to smash their start-up goal of $100,000 revenue within the first 10 months, and have since expanded their product range.
Women-led businesses earning less
The impact of the pandemic has hit female-owned businesses hardest, with many female-dominated industries more likely to have been affected, including tourism, hospitality and the arts. Of the Australian businesses reporting lower sales, over half (54 per cent) were female-owned, in stark contrast to 37 per cent of male-owned counterparts. As Australia begins the long road to recovery it’s imperative that we support women and unlock their potential to create resilient and strong communities. I would encourage anyone to revisit your favourite female-operated business and show your support. If you’re looking for inspiration, you could buy a book from My Little Bookshop or try some Australian native food with Warndu.
So what next to support Australian small businesses
Over the last year, Facebook supported more than 200 million businesses adapt and continue on. As small business continues to be the backbone of economic recovery, our efforts to expand our support for business owners continues. We’re proud to have supported them with the launch of new tools like Facebook Shops making it easier for businesses to be discovered. We provided free digital skills training with our online Boost with Facebook Australia Group, which we hope to return to physical events soon. In an effort to help even more businesses we also partnered with initiatives like Skill Finder and One Small Step to give Australians the digital skills to lead the future. In addition to tools and training, we’ve also rolled out grants to hundreds of businesses in Australia, as part of our global $100 million Small Business Grants Programme.
More needs to be done to support women and other marginalised groups who faced a heavier burden from the pandemic, and I truly believe that when small businesses thrive, Australia thrives. While we are proud of the measures we have rolled out, we understand the role we can play and are challenging ourselves to do even more.
About the Global State of Small Business Report
The Facebook Global State of Small Business Report surveyed more than 35,000 SMB leaders across 27 countries and territories in February 2021. This report investigates the effects of the pandemic on these businesses’ performance, how they have adapted to the current circumstances, and SMB leaders’ expectations for the future. It also looks at the impacts of the pandemic on women-led and minority-led SMBs. You can read the full Global State of Small Business Report here.