Record number of SMEs plan to downsize, close or sell as their outlook looks more gloomy

New research from the FSB reveals that the outlook for many UK small-business owners worsened in the last quarter of 2017

Record number of SMEs plan to downsize

The new year is usually celebrated as a time of possibilities. Whether it’s about hitting the gym more frequently or getting that startup off the ground, come January 1 many people feel bullish about the 12 months to come. Unfortunately, it seems as if a huge chunk of Britain’s entrepreneurs don’t share this optimism. In fact, many are actively considering closing up all together.

Having surveyed 1,084 of its members, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed that small-business owners’ confidence took a turn for the worse in the last quarter of 2017. In fact, its quarterly small-business index turned negative for the first time since the Brexit referendum. Almost a third of owners expect their performance to worsen over the next three months and 14% plan to downsize, close or sell their business; conversely a quarter expect an improvement.

And it’s reasonably easy to see why small-business owners have such a pessimistic outlook. For starters, almost three-quarters of firms faced a rise in operating costs in the last quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, while 41% report that their profits have fallen. Additionally, 55% of small-business owners believe Britain’s weak economy will stifle their growth, while 34% are worrying about falling consumer demand, another 34% access to skilled staff and 20% regulatory hurdles.

Commenting on the research Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB, believes that while Brexit will continue to dominate the headlines, tackling hurdles closer to home will be at the forefront of most entrepreneurs’ minds. “While the swift agreement of a transitional arrangement and an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU are absolutely critical, it’s spiralling costs, weak growth and flagging consumer demand at home that are front of mind for small firms day to day,” he said. “It’s troubling to see a record number of entrepreneurs seeking an exit as these challenges prove too much for many.”

Here’s hoping the next few months will provide reasons for small-business owners to stick things out and get back into that new-year spirit.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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