Confidence among small business owners in the South West is rising again according to our latest FSB survey.
The FSB surveys its members about their future plans and ambitions every quarter and the results of our latest poll shows confidence levels across the UK bouncing back after falling in 2017.
Confidence among small firms is said to be rebounding due to the backdrop of lower inflation, progress on Brexit talks and the Government’s positive Spring Statement.
And, it is not only confidence that is rising. The proportion of firms planning to increase investment has hit a two-year high and half of the members who took part in the survey expect to expand operations over the coming 12 months. The survey also shows our members are continuing to hire - the proportion reporting a steady or increased headcount is at its highest since summer 2016 (82%).
The positive figures have been welcomed by Roger Tarrant (pictured), the chairman for the FSB in the South West region.
“This is really good news coming from businesses in the South West. However, there is still a lot to be done to support the domestic market.'
The figures reveal that more than a quarter of small firms in the South West expect their performance will either improve (31%) or remain the same (40%) over the next three months and more than half of firms in the region (59%) also now report that revenues are either stable or increasing.
Elsewhere, despite the Brexit situation, international traders are becoming increasing bullish with the share of South West small exporters expecting global sales to increase over the coming three months now at 41% - a big increase on the last quarter’s 29% tally.
Despite these improvements, the survey backed up Mr Tarrant’s view that there are still some areas of concern among the region’s small business community.
The domestic economy remains the biggest barrier to small business growth for firms in the South West, with more than half (58%) of firms raising it as an issue. Consumer demand (43%), appropriately skilled staff (39%) and labour costs (21%) are the other most frequently flagged barriers to growth among small firms in the region.
Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the FSB, said the overall results of the latest survey were encouraging but said there was still plenty of work to do....
“After a 2017 dogged by spiralling prices and political uncertainty, it’s good to see small business confidence back in the black. The resilience of the small firms and self-employed entrepreneurs that make up 99 per cent of UK businesses has lifted economic forecasts for the coming 12 months.
”The picture is mixed though – consumer-facing firms are still trying to keep their heads above water after a year of customer belt-tightening and business rates hikes.
“Securing the right Brexit deal is now vital. While the final withdrawal agreement is ironed out, small firms will need support to adjust to regulatory changes over the coming weeks and months, not least the new GDPR rules taking effect from May”.
If you would like to take part in future FSB surveys join our Big Voice panel at https://www.fsb.org.uk/benefits/support/big-voice