A challenging environment for entrepreneurs in 2011 has delivered interesting shifts in this year’s Index, when compared to last year, with the North East moving up three places to take the top spot from London. The South East has had the biggest fall, moving from fourth to the bottom of the table.
The research, in its second successive year, is based on an in-depth study of around 1,000 owner-managers, combined with qualitative analysis by Kingston University’s Small Business Research Centre and ranks each region on 13 key indicators including outlook on growth, employment generation, and expected profit.
This year’s Index reveals a complex picture. Nationally, small businesses have ‘battened down the hatches’ following a difficult year. Looking ahead to 2012, they remain cautious compared to last year, however there was good news as almost half expect an increase in profit during 2012.
Encouragingly, owners of small businesses still retain a good sense of optimism and are looking to innovation to help boost their business in 2012. Over a third (37 per cent) of Britain small businesses looking to grow next year see innovation as the key driver, while 25 per cent of businesses are doing more with less next year. Only 15 per cent expect to take on new employees to help deliver growth.
Steve Cooper, Managing Director, Barclays – Business & Personal Banking Solutions said: “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.
“However, it is encouraging to see there is still optimism, with businesses introducing new products and services to help them prepare for the recovery. Innovation is a great way to drive growth in a business, potentially exposing small businesses to new markets both at home and abroad.”
“We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure business owners receive the support they need to help deliver growth next year. Improving confidence is critical, as we look to help businesses to succeed in 2012.”
Commenting on the findings, Professor Robert Blackburn, Small Business Research Centre, Kingston University who developed the Index said: “In terms of regional performance, the Barclays Business Regional Impact Index shows that SMEs in the North East, London and South West are proving to be the most resilient in today’s tough economic climate. The North East, which tops the Index is particularly interesting, and its position at the top of the table could be down to entrepreneurs in this region having a long-standing propensity to innovate and export beyond their limited regional market, in contrast to those enjoying close proximity to larger metropolitan markets”.