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We must celebrate our nation of shopkeepers and get them back on their feet

It is vital to support small businesses, the backbone of the UK economy, and help them access capital needed through the pandemic

It always comes as a surprise that the characterisation of Britain as “a nation of shopkeepers” was originally meant as an insult.

Originally coined by the French revolutionary Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, the term caught the public consciousness because it reveals a truth – small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy, and this is something of which we are rightly proud. 

Smaller businesses that grow and become “scale-ups” drive economic growth, lead innovation and provide an important source of employment.

It is vital to support these companies by sharing their stories of resilience and innovation, and by helping them access the capital they need to fund their businesses through the pandemic

At London Stock Exchange Group, we have taken an in-depth look at some of the companies that drive the UK economy, which we have published today in our 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain report. The stories we have discovered are remarkable and truly inspiring.

Many of the companies featured in this year’s report face new challenges due to the impact of Covid-19, so championing these businesses and sharing their stories is more important than ever. 

This isn’t simply about helping companies to grow and succeed.

The 1000 companies featured created more than 42,000 jobs in the two years to December 2019 and recorded an average revenue growth of 41.2pc, demonstrating the contribution they have made to the UK economy. 

No longer is Britain only known for its shopkeepers. The top five industries represented by this year’s companies are engineering & construction, manufacturing, food & beverages, retail and technology. These sectors account for more than 40pc of the companies in the report and have generated a combined £21.6bn in revenue and almost 14,000 jobs. 

Nor are our businesses exclusively focused on our nation’s capital.

The leading regions for job creation are spread across the UK, with London and the North West leading the way, followed by South East England, Yorkshire and the Humber and West Midlands. Supporting these businesses across all regions and sectors will be key for both local employment and rebuilding local economies.

We have been inspired by the way that the companies featured in our report have adapted their businesses over the last seven months and responded to the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Three companies in the report, TRB Lightweight Structures, Oxford Nanopore and LumiraDx, modified their operations to manufacture and distribute PPE and Covid-19 testing technology, while other companies including Community Windpower, MADE and Brewdog supported their local communities and the NHS through monetary and in-kind donations.

The importance of accessing finance efficiently has never been greater than during this exceptional year. Capital markets have continued to be a vital source of funding to businesses for innovation and to shore up balance sheets.

Since March 2020, companies on London Stock Exchange’s growth market, AIM, have raised over £3.9bn in further capital. Recent findings from Grant Thornton research showed that in 2019 alone, AIM quoted companies contributed £33.5bn Gross Value Added (GVA) to UK GDP and directly supported more than 430,000 jobs.

Companies across a wide range of sectors, from technology to healthcare to leisure have accessed London’s markets to raise capital this year. This includes new public offerings from innovative London-based companies such as Guild Esports, and Manchester-based companies THG and Calisen.

Calisen is one of 88 firms who have now received our Green Economy Mark, which recognises companies listed in London that have green revenues of 50pc or more. 

Across London Stock Exchange, more than £38bn in capital has been raised so far this year, and, London has been at the centre of recapitalisations in Europe this year with 414 transactions raising £31.9bn.

This ability for companies to repeatedly come back to the market to raise capital showcases the platform that capital markets can provide for efficient and ongoing access to capital for a company across all stages of its growth. Crucially, capital markets also enable groups to maintain a healthy balance sheet in times of uncertainty. 

In this challenging year, it is more important than ever to showcase the resilience and entrepreneurship of UK companies.

London Stock Exchange Group remains committed to supporting growth companies to achieve their potential and playing our part in helping them succeed. 

David Schwimmer is chief executive of London Stock Exchange Group. The 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain 2020 report is available at 1000companies.co

Do you run your own business? How have you coped with the challenges of Covid? Tell us in the comments section below