Scottish entrepreneurs boosting British business

scottish business

Huge growth in number of Scottish businesses joining barcode organisation to trade. Scotland growing faster than any other home nation last year, outstripping England – Northern Ireland lags behind

There has been a 61 per cent increase in the number of Scottish businesses joining barcode organisation GS1 UK to trade, according to the not-for-profit global standards organisation.

Typically, companies join GS1 UK for access to standardised barcodes, allowing them to trade efficiently and opening the door to national and international markets via marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon as well as traditional retailers such as Tesco and John Lewis.

Over the last 12 months, the number of businesses joining GS1 UK rose by 46 per cent across the UK. Scotland saw the fastest growth of any home nation, ahead of England, and comfortably outstripping Wales. Northern Ireland, however, saw no growth – with the same number of businesses joining in 2017 as in 2016.


Gary Lynch, chief executive of GS1 UK, said: “Businesses source barcodes from us when they need to identify, trade and track products, helping them save time and money in their supply chain.

So a surge in demand for our services – across the country but with some notable hotspots –can tell us a great deal about differences in the economy across the United Kingdom and growth in domestic and international trade.

The origins behind this surge in entrepreneurship across the country include changing employment demographics and the need for more flexibility, as well as facilitators such as lower barriers to entry due to the emergences of marketplaces.

And this is not a blip. Between 2008 and 2014, the level of self-employment in the UK increased from 3.8 million to 4.6 million.”

Four industries stood out, with 51 per cent of the new joiners in Scotland coming from: Drinks & Beverages, Apparel, Food & Grocery, and Health & Beauty. Health & Beauty made up 8 per cent of the Scottish new joiners, with the Drinks industry (both alcoholic or non-alcoholic) 13 per cent and 14 per cent in Apparel – including clothing, footwear, accessories. 16 per cent of new joiners were from Food & Grocery.

Marketplaces dominated the business models for members in the Apparel sector with 71 pr cent selling via Google, eBay, and Amazon. Turnover among joiners from the Food & Grocery industry averaged at £8,592,000. While turnover among joiners in Drinks & Beverages averaged just £403,000, new members ranged from a small business at its launch stage producing soft drinks – to a privately-owned distillery established in 1967.

Gary Lynch said: “Our members tell us there have been some positive developments for trade and entrepreneurship in Scotland – from the £1.1bn Edinburgh City Region Deal package to the Scottish Government’s launch of a £4m fund to attract the world’s brightest entrepreneurs to Scotland and help them develop their ideas for businesses. These are adding to the sense of confidence and purpose across the country.”

East Midlands pips London for supremacy

On a regional basis, the fastest growth was recorded in the East Midlands, where there was a 69 per cent increase in the number of businesses joining the barcode organisation – outstripping growth anywhere else in the UK including London. Meanwhile 1,433 businesses in the capital became members, which represented a 64 per cent rise on 2016.

Gary Lynch said: “The exchange rate is helping Britain’s manufacturers compete for business and the East Midlands has always been the country’s industrial backbone. The region has the highest proportion of manufacturing employment in England, so it is benefiting disproportionately from the pound’s fall. The East Midland is also profiting from new infrastructure investment including the Nottingham Express Transit extension.

In the future, the eastern leg of HS2 should boost capacity and connect the region to the European-wide rail network. And the government has announced it will reduce planning restrictions in the East Midlands as part of a pilot manufacturing zone which is set to help the region’s businesses in the future.

So, while London may be an incredible global city, we’re seeing new centres of trade springing up and, little by little, its dominance is being challenged. The capital’s growth is being constrained by poor infrastructure, a shortage of affordable housing, and a higher cost of living.”

In London, more businesses became members in the W, N, E, and SW postcode areas than did in the EC postcode area, the home of Silicon Roundabout, with 170 based in the W postcode, compared to 138 in the EC postcode area. However, EC1 and EC2 did see 188 per cent growth in members joining in 2017 than 2016, making EC the fastest-growing postcode area in the country.