Recent research indicates that optimism among small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) has fallen, which is perhaps understandable given the current uncertain environment.
However, will confidence levels be impacted in the longer term or are smaller businesses remaining optimistic about the future?
According to the results of the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) SME Trends Survey, confidence levels dropped in the last three months. Indeed, while our 2017 SME Growth Watch report found that SMEs are forecast to contribute £241bn to the UK economy by 2025, two in five (42%) smaller businesses identified economic uncertainty as a primary barrier to their future growth.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that optimism and confidence levels can change quickly and are often useful as short-term indicators rather than providing a longer-term perspective. The current economic environment is rapidly changing – last week’s Bank of England base rate rise is a prime example. While a near-term outlook provides welcome insight into how businesses are feeling about immediate challenges, the reality for long-term business prospects is more nuanced. Our study shows that half (51%) of smaller firms feel optimistic about their long-term growth prospects, and more than a third (37%) plan on investing in order to expand in the next 12 months.
Overall, our SME Growth Watch report indicates that UK SMEs are continuing to identify opportunities for growth. The long-term outlook of post-Brexit Britain is still unclear and will stay as such until we receive more up-to-date economic indicators. In the meantime, SMEs remain ambitious and are looking ahead to growth in the future.
While the country waits for clarity, the government should not lose its focus when it comes to supporting smaller businesses. It is the responsibility of both government and industry to help SMEs to invest and grow, so we as a nation can continue to see positive economic progress throughout this year and beyond. At Hampshire Trust Bank, we continue to meet the demands of our customers, by offering support to the smaller businesses in the sectors in which we operate.
This is a challenging time for British businesses, however, SMEs need to carry on investing and innovating to support growth. Even in times of uncertainty, there is plenty for SMEs to do to bolster their business and prepare for whatever challenges they may meet.
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