According to the Barclays Business Regional Impact Index of around 1,000 owner-managers, 49 per cent have hopes to grow, rather than consolidate, compared to two thirds (66 per cent) in 2010.
Steve Cooper, managing director at the business and personal banking arm of Barclays says, ‘The current economic climate continues to have an impact on many small businesses in the Britain. Confidence remains low and clearly businesses are cautious as we approach 2012, with job creation not being a priority in the short term.
‘Particularly in the South East and London, it seems the cuts in the public sector and a reduced role for service companies has raised fears of a decline. These fears could be unfounded, but the uncertainty is real enough to damage confidence.’
Almost half (49 per cent) of respondents expect an increase in profit during 2012, while a third (33 per cent) expect profits to remain static, with 18 per cent fearing losses.
Small businesses in London (57 per cent), Central England (54 per cent) and the North East (54 per cent) are the most optimistic about growth in 2012 with businesses in the South East (40 per cent) and South West (42 per cent) the least optimistic.
On the plus side, Professor Robert Blackburn, of the Small Business Research Centre at Kingston University says that the North East in particular has a promising future for trade. He says, ‘In terms of regional performance, the North East has a long-standing propensity to innovate and export beyond its limited regional market, in contrast to those enjoying close proximity to larger metropolitan markets.’