Business trends for 2009

The beginning of this year has seen a raft of gloomy news: unemployment figures are high, cashflow figures are low, government debt is at a record level and businesses are dropping like flies. It's undoubtedly a difficult time to be an entrepreneur, but look on the bright side: if you don't go under, there's a one in five chance your competitors will. We know it's hard to predict what's going to happen, but we've rallied our experts and tried our darndest. Welcome to Smarta's outlook for 2009.

According to the ImagePower Green Brands survey, in 2007 40% of British consumers cited climate change as their greatest concern - but this year will see a rise in those looking for solutions to problems.

Business sectors: 2009's top survivors

Business sectors: 2009's top survivor

With the high street reduced to a skeleton of desperate-looking retailers huddling amid a sea of boarded-up shop fronts and retail sales dropping at a rate of knots, there's little doubt consumers will be the ones with the power to decide whether an industry will sink or swim in 2009. While thousands of firms are predicted to slip into insolvency, those who survive are set to face a tough year. Here's our round-up of the industries we expect consumers to embrace - despite the recession.

Ethical business

The beginning of the noughties may have seen the rise of the yummy mummy and her associated concerns - corn-fed chicken, organic vegetable boxes and anything locally produced - but the new, savvy, Lidl-friendly consumer is looking for answers. According to the ImagePower Green Brands survey, in 2007 40% of British consumers cited climate change as their greatest concern - but this year will see a rise in those looking for solutions to problems such as landfill waste. From a business perspective, this means adding green value: even though less than half of consumers will be happy to spend the same amount of money on eco-conscious products they were spending last year, if you show you are making an effort, consumers are prepared to switch to you.

This is very much reflected in the survey's top green brands list: of the top ten, half are supermarkets, which Penn, Shoen and Berland, the company which commissioned the survey, put down to the chains' emphasis on reducing waste. "This reflects both concerted green initiatives across the sector and consumers' practical focus on everyday solutions like packaging, recycling and reduction of plastic bag use," confirmed a spokesperson.

Online retail

Every rule needs its allegorical exception, and online retail might just be the one for the recession. Christmas was a case in point: while high street shops waited with growing desperation for shoppers to appear, online retailers sat back and watched the figures mount, with sales reaching almost £4.7bn.

Even though it only came 4th in the top ten online retailers, Play.com was the surprise winner of the online retail wars, with sales up by nearly a quarter.

Robert Epstein, head of business for small and medium businesses at Microsoft, is convinced the online sector will see further rises during 2009. "Online sites are

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