Confidence among small and medium-sized businesses begins to disappear

Rising confidence levels seen earlier in the year among small and medium-sized businesses all but eroded during the second quarter of the year, a new survey shows.

Small firms lobbyist Isme’s latest quarterly business trends survey shows a decline in seven out of its 12 confidence indicators in the three months to the end of June.

Respondents were negative on their outlook for general business performance and expectations around hiring, investment, and exporting. The outlook for profitability and sales rises improved.

However, 55% of SMEs said Brexit is their biggest concern and 36% said they will not be in a position to increase wages this year.

“The gains made in the previous quarter have reversed,” said Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell.

“Brexit, reduced orders, and economic uncertainty are the biggest issues facing small businesses; this must be reflected in Budget 2018,” he added.

With its latest survey, Isme launched a fresh attack on the Government’s acceptance of the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation for an increase in the statutory minimum wage, earlier this week, saying there was no evidential basis for doing so.

“This will have a negative impact on small businesses, particularly retailers.

“Our research shows business confidence and current sales within this sector have declined.

“This statutory increase will do nothing to improve the living standards of those on the minimum wage.

“If anything, it will undermine current employment and future employment,” Mr O’Donnell added.

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