In Depth

Season's Frettings From SMBs

Holiday shoppers can make or break a SMB’s bottom line – and here’s what one survey says SMB owners have as their top concerns headed into these all-important few weeks.

The rigor of running a small business is exacerbated by the holiday season, when consumers’ thoughts turn to presents and electronics and sundry items – and the thoughts of small businesses turn to how to meet demand.

As noted earlier this month in a study by CAN Capital, which serves the alternative small business finance market, a survey of more than 1,000 small businesses found that a number of functions remain top of mind.

In this recent survey, business owners focused on where they would like to invest time and money to begin the new year on a positive note and what they would classify as the most pressing issues looking to the current operating environment.

Among the most prevalent areas of interest: 29 percent of respondents said that inventory remains among the top of mind issues for business owners, with about 53 percent of people citing it as their “biggest worry,” said CAN Capital. And other priorities include better technology systems at 24 percent. The wish list continued with firms stating that they would like to have the ability to expand their marketing efforts, trailing a bit at 18 percent.

The holiday shopping season also brings with it, of course, the demand for seasonal employment, with 21 percent of typical SMB heads citing the demand among top concerns.

The survey itself came through research conducted by Google Consumer Surveys and was in turn tied to responses from 1,027 online responses, in queries conducted last month from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16.

And yet, the CAN Capital findings do not necessarily seem to jibe with the findings by the same firm as recently as May of this year, when SMBS said they were not rushing to embrace new technology that would spur ease of use in mobile payments – ostensibly the very technology that would bring consumers to the (virtual) cash register. Back then, 87 percent of respondents said they were not accepting mobile payments.

Separately, and as had been reported previously, Supply Chain Insights said earlier this month that up-to-date software can make all the difference in managing inventory – and that using legacy systems, marked by decades-old technology and processes, is not enough to keep business humming and executives happy. The key? Researchers said that roughly 63 percent of users of advanced supply chain software were happy with the performance of the technology, compared with only 34 percent of those using basic software.

In more recent data, and underscoring the need for strong technology in place to track data and individual business progress -- from sales to cash flow -- the PYMNTS Store Front Business Index noted growth among store front businesses, which can be defined as: small businesses that populate main and side streets across towns large and small in the United States. In aggregate, across 3.4 million businesses, growth was seen at a decent 3.4 percent, with much of the growth coming from the Southwest portion of the United States. With a bit more granularity, the professional services subsector saw the most growth, up 4.8 percent in the first quarter, versus a year ago.

 

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