Research finds confidence is starting to return to region
Signs of economic recovery are starting to show in the South West, as the number of SMEs reporting an increase in business has risen year-on-year according to new figures.
During the fourth quarter of 2012, 30% of firms in the region saw an increase in orders compared to 23% the year before, according to research commissioned by Bibby Financial Services.
The results show encouraging signs for firms hoping to move further towards recovery but there are still challenges for business owners in the South West.
Key findings for the South West in quarter four of 2012 included 37% saying that they expected their business to pick up in 2013 and 15%said they would be recruiting new staff, compared to 10% last year.
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As a reflection of the mixed picture, 34% of businesses said they thought it would take at least five years for the UK economy to fully recover.
Terry Wolfendale, spokesperson for Bibby Financial Services in the South West, said: "We all know that access to finance has been a challenge for many small and medium-sized businesses since the recession, which resulted in traditional forms of funding being shut off and credit controls tightened."
He added: "We are encouraged by the results of our Business Factors Index for quarter four 2012, as it underlines the key role being played by the UK's SME community in moving the country back to recovery. But that can only be possible if those businesses have the kind of flexible funding that will enable them to realise that ambition."
Meanwhile, a new survey has found that 64% of SME manufacturers in the South West are expecting to increase their turnover in the next six months.
The latest barometer from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) has shown that manufacturers' confidence is reflected in their investment intentions, with 47% expecting to increase investment in machinery over the next half year – a 6% increase on last quarter.
Nearly half of manufacturers reported an increase in order books and 42% reported higher enquiry levels.
Simon Howes, MAS area director for South England, said: "It is reassuring to see so many of our manufacturers forecasting an increase in turnover given both the UK overall economic contraction in the final quarter of 2012 as revealed by the ONS and the ongoing concerns surrounding recovery in the eurozone. This demonstrates the resolve of manufacturers in the region as well as illustrating that many are still finding opportunities to grow."