SME update –
what are SMEs thinking?
Quarter 2012 Bulletin
Economic optimism continues to recover from
the low point of Q4 2011
The latest quarterly findings from BDRC Continental’s Business
Opinion Omnibus showed that SME optimism in the UK economy has increased
significantly since the last quarter of 2011, notwithstanding the return to
recession announced by the ONS on the 25 April. SMEs continue to feel more confident in their
own trading prospects than the economy generally, though economic optimism
increased 25 points since the last quarterly figure, as SMEs reveal a more
positive outlook since the turn of the year.
Since the Q4 2011 results, SMEs’ attitudes towards their own
trading prospects have remained constant at +22% net balance, whilst their view
of the economy brightened considerably from -19% net balance to +4%, mirroring
the same level of optimism reported this time last year. The EEF, the association for manufacturers,
backed a more positive view than ONS statistics suggest: “The anecdotal evidence is much more positive than the numbers today”.
SMEs in the South still
the most confident in their own trading prospects
Where, regionally, businesses shared similar levels of
confidence in trading prospects in the last quarter, the Q1 2012 results
indicate a greater sense of belief felt amongst southern SMEs. This marks the
most significant increase of the three broad regions, from +24% to +31% net
balance. While the North and Midlands remained confident overall both at +17%,
there were marginal falls from last quarter, dropping 6 points and 1 point
respectively. In the last two years a trend has emerged revealing the South as
the most confident region, whilst the Midlands and North were more closely
aligned with a slightly lower net balance.
This follows the three regions reporting similar positive levels of
trading prospects from Q1 2009.
James Dunleavy, Research Manager of
Financial & Business research at BDRC Continental says: “The latest quarterly results reveal that
SMEs have a renewed sense of confidence in the general economy following a
largely negative outlook at the end of 2011. With the easing of the Eurozone
debt crisis which would have certainly impacted on the gloomy economic
sentiment in late 2011, the net balance of SMEs have shown a more optimistic
attitude as the tracker returns to the positive, albeit only just. Meanwhile, SMEs’
own trading prospects have remained relatively high and plateaued over the last
six months in the positive mid 20s. Whilst SMEs are certainly more confident in
their own prospects as opposed to the economy, the gap between the two has
closed significantly, marking a positive beginning to 2012 and perhaps
signalling a change in sentiment regarding how SMEs will view the economy.”
He continues: “Trading prospects do,
however, remain consistently higher than economic optimism, which suggests a
disparity between the gloom that SMEs read in the media and what they see in
their own businesses.”
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About ‘Net balance’
balance is the percentage of respondents replying ‘increase’ minus the
percentage replying ‘decrease’. We ignore the percentage replying ‘the same’
for this purpose.
Q1- Thinking about the
trading prospects for your company in the next year, do you expect business
activity to increase, decrease or stay the same as the past year?
Q2- And thinking about
the economy generally, would you say you are more optimistic than three
months ago, or more pessimistic?
About BDRC Continental
BDRC Continental is the UK’s
largest independent market research agency. Established in 1991, the company
has built an unrivalled reputation as a full service consultancy with
specialist expertise across a number of sectors including business to business;
financial services; travel & transport; culture, tourism & leisure;
hotels, meetings & hospitality; media & advertising; internet &
telecoms; Government & not for profit.
BDRC Continental is staffed by
highly experienced researchers with great reputations in their individual fields
as well as in the market research industry. The company is renowned for its
consultative approach and ability to add value to clients’ businesses by
bringing insights from multiple markets to the research. This
cross-disciplinary approach enables BDRC Continental to provide intelligence
that is informed by a deep understanding of the client’s issues and the wider
market context. As well as undertaking bespoke research for a wide variety of
clients, the company conducts a number of syndicated studies and has developed
proprietary techniques including Tracktion (the award winning customer experience methodology), Grapevine, Service Intensity, the
Business Opinion Omnibus, SME Finance Monitor and ZMET Visionary Thinking.