The seaside towns that have become micro-business hotspots

Written by: Rachel Miller

Date: 26 May 2024

Seaside towns are leading the field when it comes to driving the growth in the number of micro-businesses

Coastal towns, including Felixstowe, Bournemouth, Sidmouth and Bexhill-on-Sea, are seeing a boom in micro-businesses according to new data.

Entrepreneur communities in many of the UK's seaside towns are growing at more than twice the national average rate, according to research conducted by Venture Forward for GoDaddy. Researchers have analysed data from more than half a million digital micro-businesses (with ten employees or fewer) to calculate a "micro-business density" score for every UK constituency.

The findings show that the Isle of Wight, Totnes, Portishead, Newquay, Felixstowe, Bournemouth, Sidmouth and Bexhill-on-Sea are at the heart of a UK micro-business boom. Suffolk Coastal - where Felixstowe is the largest town - is the sixth fastest growing area of the country overall, and saw 54% growth in its micro-business density score. This is more than ten times the average UK growth rate of 5%.

"Felixstowe has a strong community spirit; people believe in shopping local and supporting small businesses. The craft fairs and markets in Felixstowe helped get my business off the ground and in December I launched my website to support the next phase. My business is continuing to grow and I've just secured three local stockists to distribute my range of natural skincare products." Catherine Hickman, founder of organic skincare business fanatical botanical, Felixstowe.

Small business hotspots by the sea

Bournemouth West (+29%), East Devon (+23%) and Bexhill and Battle (+23%) also significantly outstripped the national average. Meanwhile, the Isle of Wight, Totnes and Portishead all saw substantial growth of +13%. St Austell and Newquay in Cornwall saw growth of +11%.

However, it seems there is a north-south "seaside divide" when it comes to micro-businesses in the UK. The data shows far slower growth rates in coastal towns in the north of England, including Blackpool South (+2.7%), the Vale of Clwyd which contains Rhyl (+2.7%), Scarborough and Whitby (+2.1%) and Morecambe and Lunesdale (+2.1%). Greater Grimsby had a -1% contraction.

"The UK's small business community is in good health and we've seen growth in micro-business density in most parts of the country. Many iconic coastal towns have been at the heart of this boom. The trend is particularly pronounced in the south of England … with the rapid advancements in technology and tools to help entrepreneurs set up websites quickly and efficiently, we hope to see the north-south seaside divide start to close in the near future." Andrew Gradon, head of GoDaddy UK & Ireland.

Venture Forward reports that 90% of businesses in the UK are now classified as micro-businesses. The sector has seen significant growth over the past two decades - the number of micro-businesses which employ 0-9 people (excluding the business owner) has increased from 3.5 million in 2000 to 5.2 million in 2022.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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