What is the fastest growing small business industry in the UK?


After a challenging 18 months for business owners, new analysis of small business trends has revealed the UK’s fastest growing trades.

Research by Simply Business shows a surge in the number of outdoor, food, and arts businesses launched between 2020 and 2021.

Read on to find out which trades have grown the fastest and how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted small business activity.

The rise of market stall traders

Our study found that the number of outdoor market stall traders has increased by 92 per cent since 2020, making it the fastest growing industry over the last year.

The strict Covid-19 restrictions in place for the first few months of 2021 are likely to be a key reason why the number of outdoor traders has grown significantly.

As well as those small business owners who already had market stalls experiencing higher demand due to the pandemic, many indoor traders had to pivot their business models to operate outside.

A large proportion of indoor businesses were unable to open for much of the last year, so the public has a new found appreciation for food trucks businesses and outdoor dining.

With a full Christmas market season just around the corner, the market stall trader boom looks set to continue into 2022.

If you’re thinking of joining the rising number of people starting an outdoor business, read our guide on how to start a market stall in the UK.

Food and the arts businesses leading the way

Alongside a surge in market stall traders, our research found that the number of caterers and home bakers increased by over 50 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

Caterer delivering sandwiches

This suggests the nation’s love of good food remains strong and as a new series of The Great British Bake Off begins this month, demand for food businesses is likely to remain high this autumn.

A lot of people have also been turning their hand to the arts over the last year, with the number of new photography businesses rising by 44 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

Similar to the growth of the home baking industry, this trend reflects the lifestyle changes many people have experienced since March 2020. With more time at home to spend on hobbies and passions, many people have launched successful side hustles.

What’s more, with many shops forced to close for large parts of 2020 and 2021, it comes as no surprise that the number of online retailers increased by a further 55 per cent this year.

Download our report on the financial impact of Covid-19

This article discusses how the pandemic has affected new business trends, but you can find out more about the financial impact of Covid-19 on small businesses by downloading our report.

“A reassuring sign of an economic rebound”

Simply Business UK CEO Alan Thomas says the boost in market stall traders is a reassuring sign of an economic rebound for the UK.

“It’s small businesses like these that are going to play the most important role in bringing back our economy from Covid-19.”

“Our report showed optimistic results of new businesses emerging in the food and artistic sectors. Self-employed jobs are also finally seeing a rise as we distance ourselves from the pandemic.”

Following the government’s announcement of its Autumn and Winter Covid-19 Plan, keep an eye on our Knowledge centre for updates on how ‘Plan A’ and the potential introduction of ‘Plan B’ could affect your small business.

Has your business started trading outside as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic? Let us know in the comments below.

Photograph 1: cceliaphoto/stock.adobe.com

Photograph 2: highwaystarz/stock.adobe.com

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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