Almost three in every five (57 per cent) SME business owners say that they do not feel confident about the UK’s economic prospects for 2017, according to the Close Brothers Business Barometer. The quarterly survey questions over 900 UK SME owners and senior management across a range of sectors and regions.
Firms at the smaller end of the scale – under £500k annual turnover – are the least confident, 64 per cent say ‘no’ to the question ‘are you confident about the UK’s economic outlook for 2017?’.
‘Businesses owners are not taking a negative view, but they are being pragmatic about the UK’s economic prospects over the next 12 months,’ says 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.’
Business owners in the North East and Northwest of England are the most positive, as 56 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively, feel positive about the year ahead, contrasting with the 36 per cent of Scottish respondents.
The most enthusiastic sector was manufacturing, which returned a positive response of 61 per cent, followed by engineering with 52 per cent; construction 49 per cent; transport 47 per cent, and print 37 per cent.
‘UK manufacturing in on a high at the moment, with recent rates of growth for production and new orders among the best seen over the past two-and-a-half years, according to the Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index,’ continues Neil.
‘And this uplift in the manufacturing sector is reflected in what the survey respondents are telling us, which is that they see 2017 as a time of significant potential opportunity.’