Confidence amongst small businesses in the South West continues to fall – but there are some glimmers of positivity for the future.
That is the main finding of the latest quarterly report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The organisation says that despite extremely difficult trading conditions the South West businesses polled were among the most positive in the country when looking at their future revenue projections.
Some 40 per cent of them expect to grow rapidly in the next 12 months.
In another positive finding, although 18 per cent of SMEs in the report said they had decreased staff numbers in the South West, 15 per cent had actually increased their numbers.
This meant the South West had the slowest rate of overall SME employment decline of those polled in the English regions
Despite those seeds of optimism, however, the figures – based on the third quarter, July-September - show that confidence as a whole is still falling amongst SMEs in both the South West and the wider country.
Summarising the findings, FSB South West Regional Chairman Lee Nathan said there were still areas of major concern despite the resilience and hard work of the region’s small business owners.
He added: “The report shows small firms in the region continue to be adversely affected by the pandemic and national lockdown, particularly in relation to general business conditions and employment intentions.
"However, stoicism remains in place, with investment intentions expected for many in the next 12 months, with the South West showing as positive in comparison to the rest of England.
“It is crucial that our regional businesses are given confidence and certainty at this time, particularly for businesses most in need of support in the hospitality, retail and tourism related sectors; and not forgetting those working in the supply chains.
"A lot of small businesses have shelled out thousands to make their premises safe at a time when they had little or no revenue coming in, only to be told to close.
"Securing a swift and positive EU deal will provide a fillip for many small businesses at what has been an extremely difficult time”.
The South West findings are part of an overall national FSB report which says that business confidence has now been in negative territory for two years.
It calls on the Government to help restore that positivity and offer more support – particularly to those many businesses which feel left behind.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Too many small businesses are still without the help they need to weather current disruption – not least company directors, the newly self-employed, those without premises and those further down supply chains in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.
"An ambitious rescue package for these groups is urgently needed.
"Local authorities should also use their new discretionary funds being allocated to assist them wherever possible.”