Bank of Scotland: Pandemic forced half of Scottish businesses to innovate

Fraser Sime

The coronavirus pandemic prompted a wave of innovation as businesses pivoted their operations to survive, according to a Bank of Scotland survey.

Almost half (48%) of Scottish businesses said the pandemic forced them to be more creative and innovative in finding new areas of growth.

Just under half (49%) have made changes to their business since the start of the pandemic, such as making changes to their operations (24%) and expanding their online offering (19%).

Crucially, a significant number of businesses are benefiting from pivoting with more than a third (37%) saying that they will keep their changes in the long term. And it is already paying dividends for some, with one in eight (13%) firms saying that their operational changes have boosted revenues and profits.

Shetland-based car hire firm Bolts Car Hire changed its business model during the pandemic. When Covid-19 hit and a stop was put to travel, Bolts Car Hire was left with 1,500 cancellations and 150 unused cars. To ensure sufficient cash flow, the business decided to tap into the rising demand for commercial vehicles from firms building new windfarms across Shetland.

The business approached Bank of Scotland for support, securing a £1million funding package to purchase 55 commercial vehicles including 20 vans and 31 4x4 pick-up trucks for wind farm constructors on the island.

John Garriock, managing director of Bolts Car Hire, said: “Tourism to Shetland had been on the rise for years, but the pandemic saw visitor numbers virtually stop overnight leaving our fleet of rental cars and taxis at a standstill.

“We saw an opportunity to diversify our operations and supply construction firms on the island with commercial vehicles for their work. Thanks to the support from Bank of Scotland, we were able to buy the new vehicles and reach a new customer base that we will continue to service as tourism starts to pick-up once again.”

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland, added: “The past 18 months have caused unprecedented disruption for firms across Scotland.

“Many businesses have transformed their operations, targeted new markets or manufactured new products to meet changing demands. This quick thinking has enabled many to come through the pandemic on surer footing that may have been expected.

“While this is great to see, we know that many firms have struggled. We’ll continue to stand by Scottish businesses to ensure they can access the help and support they need to recover and ultimately to grow as we get back to more normal trading conditions.”

Across the UK half of businesses (48%) said that the pandemic had forced them to be more innovative and 56% made changes to their operations as a result. The most common changes included selling more online (21%) and adapting shift patterns (20%).

Manufacturers were most likely to make changes to their operating patterns (28% vs 20% UK average) and to expand the products they offered (22% vs 17%). Retail was the top sector for expanding online offerings (25% vs 21% UK average), buoyed by the shift to online consumer spending.

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