An uncertain and difficult year for the market has prompted 57 per cent of SME entrepreneurs to feel a lack of positivity for their prospects in 2017, a new report claims.
The quarterly Close Brothers Business Barometer survey questioned over 900 owners and senior management across a range of sectors and regions.
Negativity appeared to be highest amongst Scottish respondents with only 36 percent saying they felt confident about the economic outlook for 2017. By contrast small business owners in the North East and North West gave a more positive response of 56 and 54 per cent respectively.
The most enthusiastic sector was Manufacturing, which returned a positive response of 61%, followed by Engineering with 52%; Construction 49%; Transport 47%, and Print 37%
So what’s causing the lukewarm response?
“Businesses owners are not taking a negative view, but they are being pragmatic about the UK’s economic prospects over the next 12 months,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance.
“There are still many unknowns and this uncertainty is reflected in what small business owners are telling us.
“For example, the value of Sterling is seen as a short-term issue and doesn’t create conditions for long-term investment. While activity in a number of sectors is stronger due to the weaker pound, helping to boost orders from overseas, cost pressures remain high with price increases being passed onto consumers, which may contribute to an increase in inflation down the road.”
Head of Business Finance at Businesscomparison.com Laura Thomas says January can be a daunting month for many small business owners.
“Whilst it’s true that some SMEs in the UK will face an uncertain start to 2017, it’s not all doom and gloom. Cash flow can be tricky in January especially if your business doesn’t perform as well over the Christmas period or if you’re waiting for invoices to be paid. However, the alternative finance market is growing and the new government SME finance matchmaking service is widely predicted to help small businesses access the finance they need. Our country’s SMEs are resilient and it’s to be hoped that confidence will rise as more becomes clear about the terms of Brexit.”