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Revealed: the best UK city for small business in 2019

3-minute read

Lauren Hellicar

16 April 2019

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The Small Business Index 2019 has been released, revealing the top cities in the UK for small businesses – and where those locations rank compared with their European counterparts.

The index is produced by mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) company SumUp, and indicates which European countries are the most supportive to those setting up and running a small business.

Recognising the economic value of small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit of their owners, Marc Alexander Christ, Co-Founder of SumUp, notes: “As ambitious minds tire of inefficient bureaucracies and hierarchies, they’re investing in their own ventures that are agile, adaptable, and customer-focused.”

While the European city taking the number one spot may not be in the UK, there are British successes to be celebrated.

The index includes 100 cities from around Europe, chosen on the basis of population size. It includes all the capital cities in Europe, whether or not their countries are members of the European Union.

Three UK cities in the European top 20 for small business

London is revealed to be the third best city in the UK when it comes to running a small business. It’s no surprise really that the UK capital would feature in the European top 20, due to the sheer scale of opportunity, market, and support on your doorstep if you start a business in London.

The UK number 2 city for small businesses in 2019 is Scotland’s second city, Glasgow, where the competition isn’t seen as being so fierce when setting up a small business as it might be in other parts of the UK. Glasgow just misses out on a European top 10 place, coming in at number 11.

We head back south of the border to find the UK’s best city for small businesses in 2019. And this isn’t the first time we’ve called out Birmingham’s enterprising small business owners.

Back in 2016 we reported Birmingham as the winner of the Enterprising Britain awards. In its latest triumph, the Midlands city is revealed to be the best place to do business for UK SMEs in 2019.

The UK's top 3 cities for small business

  1. Birmingham
  2. Glasgow
  3. London

Which European countries are best for small business?

Spain took both the top spot and second place, with Valencia beating Madrid to come first. The difference in population sizes is noteworthy here, with 792,005 in Valencia compared with 3,198,645 in Madrid.

Barcelona came in at number 5, with Seville taking the number 14 spot.

But Germany is the winner in terms of the number of its cities featuring in the European top 20 for small business. Here are the German five, and where they ranked:

  • Berlin (4)
  • Essen (7)
  • Düsseldorf (12)
  • Hamburg (13)
  • Duisburg (15)

And Munich just misses out, taking 21st place in the index.

Vienna (3), Warsaw (6), Athens (8) and Prague (9) also take top 10 spots, with Paris (16), Naples (18), Zurich (19) and Milan (20) also making it onto the list of Europe's top 20 cities for small business.

Which factors were taken into account?

The 2019 Small Business Index looked at four main areas to work out where’s best for business:

  • small businesses – the type and total number of small businesses per city
  • density – the number of small businesses per capita and km²
  • rent and real estate – the retail area provision and the cost of rent
  • external support – financial measures and subsidies supporting small businesses

Where's your small business based? How easy or hard was it to get it off the ground? Let us know in the comments below.

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