Flat White Economy

According to a 2019 study from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) think tank, the so-called ‘flat white sector’ is now the most important driver of the UK economy, in terms of the value it adds. The flat white economy, largely made up of smaller businesses in the digital and creative sectors, contributed 14.4 percent of gross value added (GVA) to the UK in 2018, making it more important than traditional sectors such as manufacturing, mining and utilities on that measure.

The CEBR says that it has been tracking the growth of the sector for a number of years and that it had increased its contribution of GVA from 8.7 percent in 2013 to 13.3 per cent in 2016. The use of this name to describe the UK’s small and startup creative and digital businesses is telling. It more than hints at the idea that such businesses need to cluster in specific places to share ideas and gain access to the networks of power formed by giant firms but cannot afford the excessive rents that often go hand in hand with this hothousing.

Instead they revert to coffee shops and ultimately co-working spaces that ape many of the aesthetic and functional characteristics of the café, especially the way such spaces can bring together people from disparate disciplines and professions to talk, share ideas and come up with new ones, a process that has been ongoing for over three hundred years. Having grown their businesses in such surroundings, it’s no surprise that they expect to take the features of the spaces and cultures that have nurtured them so well into the places they call home as their business grow larger.