• Vistaprint has partnered with leading futurist, Andrew Grill, to predict what the next five years and beyond holds for small businesses, from the introduction of robotics and NFTs, accompanied by new research.
  • For over two thirds of Brits, the pandemic has shown them how important small businesses are to society and are pledging their support from 2021, as opposed to big high street chains.
  • Gen Z is leading the charge in shopping small with half (49 per cent) of 18-24 year-olds planning to support small businesses more post-pandemic.

Britain’s small businesses are facing a boost as over half (52 per cent) of Brits say they have been making a concerted effort to shop at small businesses in the last year rather than a big chain.  A generous 41 per cent would even be prepared to pay more for a coffee or lunch if it meant supporting a small business.

With 63 per cent saying this is to help the local economy, now is the perfect time for small businesses to plan for 2022 and beyond.

Commissioned by Vistaprint, a study of 2,000 adults reveals that 30 per cent of those polled have even considered opening their own small business with 11 per cent saying they are more likely to do so now as a result of the pandemic.

It’s younger people who are leading the charge in shopping small with half (49 per cent) of 18-24 year-olds planning to support small businesses more post-pandemic, along with 43 per cent of 25-34 year-olds; In comparison, just 24 per cent of over 65s said the same.

An accompanying report by top-rated British Futurist, Andrew Grill detailed the key things small businesses can do to capitalise on this change in consumer behaviour such as the emergence of “Non-Fungible Tokens” (NFTs), the latest innovation to take the crypto world by storm, lowering costs with automation and robotics and the re-birth of QR codes.

To help small businesses prepare for this future of Brits shopping small and a new generation of shoppers actively choosing to spend their hard-earned cash with independent businesses, Andrew Grill identifies his key trends for the future of small businesses, across some of the UK’s most exciting sectors:


  • In five years, most consumers will have some sort of wearable, transmitting real-time data on their health and wellbeing to a personal health agent that can prescribe the best treatments and assess diet and mental health issues.
  •  “Digital pills” will emerge that will provide a rapid digital “Health MOT”. Improvements in voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri and the addition of always-on “ambient audio” will listen to our speech patterns for signs of stress or discomfort.
  • To take advantage of this increased level of health and wellbeing data, small businesses need to invest time to understand how the sector will be transformed, to utilise for their own service.


  • Augmented and virtual reality technology will have progressed to the point that it will be just another “wearable”. AR and VR will be used to deliver personal coaching sessions anywhere, on-demand.
  • Home fitness equipment will be affordable and will be filled with sensors that track every aspect of a workout.
  • As data, AI, apps, and wearables feature heavily when looking at the next five years, small businesses can set aside an area of their physical space to provide “beta classes” that use data to go beyond the traditional workout.

Home Improvement

  • 3D printing is rapidly evolving, with even the military and airline industries “printing” spare parts they need to repair equipment.
  • In the next five years, the technology will have evolved to allow Home Improvement businesses to provide services to print-on-demand in-store and provide a complete custom design capability.

Local Restaurants and cafes

  • In the quest to lower costs, and provide faster customer service while maintaining healthy profit margins, Grill predicts that the next five years will see the rapid adoption of robotics and automation in the preparation of food and beverages within small businesses to enable more efficiency from the personal service provided by employees to customers.
  • Grill predicts that the next five years will see the rapid adoption of robotics and automation in the preparation of food and beverages within small businesses. This should free up time for employees to focus on personalized customer service while maintaining healthy profit margins, a win for businesses, customers and employees.

Creatives and Makers

  • The use of data will also be key to better understand customer and consumer trends about what is popular and worth designing. The emergence of “Non-Fungible Tokens” or NFTs will transform the way designs are bought and sold.
  • The ability to 3D print almost anything from a computer-generated design will mean that creatives and makers will have even more flexibility than before.

When looking at the future of small businesses, Andrew Grill, British Futurist said: “If 2020 was the year of work from home, 2021 is a celebration of small businesses. The pandemic has shifted retail behaviour, and SME’s nimble nature means they are positioned to take advantage of this new paradigm.”

“During lockdown, we’ve all noticed that we have instead been visiting our local small businesses more frequently by not going into an office. This is a massive opportunity for small businesses. Many have received overwhelming support since March 2020, but how do they cope with a broadened client base? Can they start to serve their regular clients better and attract new ones beyond their local catchment area? Keeping on top of the new trends, data and innovation across their sector will be crucial to help small businesses keep ahead of the curve, build stronger relationships with their customers and ensure consumer’s cash is headed their way.”

Emily Shirley, General Manager for Vistaprint UK and Ireland said: “As we all spent 2020 adapting to the ‘new normal’ we know that many of these habits are here to stay, particularly the consumer preference to shop small!”

“As a leading marketing and design partner to small businesses all over the world, Vistaprint is encouraging small businesses to capitalise on this change in consumer behaviour – and we have no doubt we’ll see a flurry of innovation in the ways Andrew suggests.”

“We’re excited to see the new strong performance come out of the change in buyer behaviour, particularly in the wellness & fitness, home improvement, food & beverage and creative sectors. We see this next decade as being the rise of the small business, as the rise in new ideas, trends and technology levels the playing field between major brands and SMEs across the UK.”

Click here to see an infographic illustrating the key results.

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Notes to Editors:

The research was commissioned in April 2021 by Vistaprint and conducted by a third-party research partner OnePoll with a random sample of 2,000 UK respondents aged 16+.

 Top 10 small businesses Brits have shopped at over the last 12 months:

1.    Butcher (37 per cent)

2.    Independent bakery (36 per cent)

3.    Independent coffee shop (32 per cent)

4.    Small corner shop (29 per cent)

5.    Greengrocer (25 per cent)

6.    Gift shop (19 per cent)

7.    Independent hairdressers / barbers (18 per cent)

8.    Independent restaurants (17 per cent)

9.    Independent florist (15 per cent)

10.  Pub (15 per cent)