22 April 2024

Regional small business confidence stalls again

Hopes that small business confidence levels in the South West were bouncing back have been dashed in Britain’s biggest business group’s latest quarterly survey of local business positivity. 

The findings of the FSB’s (Federation of Small Businesses) first quarterly confidence report in the spring were that business confidence had shown a sudden upsurge, but the latest results have shown that the momentum was short-lived.

The new figures – taken after FSB members and guests took part in the survey in the first week of July – reveal that confidence has dipped again slightly, and the overall picture is still one that reflects the concerns that the economic situation remains very difficult for many small business owners and the self-employed.

Despite the headline fall in confidence – mainly cited by SMEs as because of the general economic situation, sluggish consumer demand and rising costs –   there were still some positive signs that small businesses feel the situation will approve.

Nearly half of the SMEs surveyed in the South West said their growth aspirations in the next 12 months were to grow ‘rapidly or moderately’ – a steep increase in the last quarter – and nearly one in five planned to increase headcount in the coming months.   

FSB regional policy chair Craig Carey-Clinch said that although the headline figures were disappointing, these signs are something to build on.

“The reality is that business confidence – like the economy that influences it – is just in a totally uncertain place. All we can hope is that some of the positive signs we are seeing can be built on, and increasing confidence can start to become the norm again rather than the exception. 

Craig Carey-Clinch

“We at FSB will continue to work hard with leading policymakers to stress that small businesses can and will do their bit to try and get things moving forward again, but they can’t do it alone. Pro-small business policies are essential to get SME confidence firmly back on track.” 

The regional figures were released as part of the overall national FSB confidence report for the quarter, which saw a more dramatic fall in confidence than has been seen in the South West.

Martin McTague, FSB’s National Chair, said he, too, was trying to focus on the positives in the report… “Although the upturn in small firms’ confidence from the first quarter didn’t carry over into the second quarter of the year, the message from our research is that small firms’ confidence in the future is looking rosier,” he said.  

“Given the right conditions for growth, small firms have the potential to power a groundswell of economic activity. With the domestic economy the biggest perceived barrier to growth, however, they are in something of a catch-22 situation.” 

The FSB South West report can be downloaded  at  https://tinyurl.com/4fjw5c7t

Written by
Andy Munns
View all articles
Written by Andy Munns