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Southern UK businesses enjoy Indian summer

The economic weather may be bad, but businesses in the South of England enjoyed a more pleasant summer than expected, according to a new survey by Business Environment, one of the UK’s largest serviced office providers. 

  • Firms in the South post more positive results than expected
  • London least optimistic of Southern regions
  • Smaller firms more confident about UK economy.

 A study of 150 SMEs based in the company’s fifteen offices across the South of England concluded that despite a double-dip recession, many businesses were surprisingly positive about the second and third quarters of 2012. Nearly half (47 per cent) had increased their headcount during the second quarter of the year, and most (62 per cent) had introduced new products or services When asked about the third quarter of the year, the vast majority (93 per cent) said that they were either “positive” or “very positive” about the longevity of their business, and a majority (54.4) said they were confident in the UK economy’s prospects overall.

 David Saul, managing director of Business Environment, said: “It’s a been a gloomy summer for UK Plc, so the survey’s relatively positive tone was a big surprise.

 “Despite the tough economy, many companies are finding ways to thrive – and this is a good sign for the future.”

Interestingly, London was the least optimistic part of southern UK during Summer 2012. Q2 saw sustained confidence from the South West – employers in the region were least likely to suffer cashflow issues, with just eight per cent struggling for liquidity, compared to 19 per cent in London and 20 per cent in the South East. Likewise, South West firms were the most likely to have grown, with 77 per cent having expanded throughout the quarter.

Q3 saw sustained optimism from the South East. South Eastern employers were confident about the overall economy (64 per cent declaring themselves either “confident” or “very confident”), and companies in the South East are the most likely to predict their sector will grow over the coming three months (92 per cent agreeing). Companies in the South East were also most likely to report a quarter-on-quarter increase in turnover (52 per cent).

However, throughout the summer, London lagged behind on most metrics.

One interesting finding was that the smaller the company, the greater the confidence in the UK economy in the coming quarter. 62.5 per cent of self-employed people say they are either “confident” or “very confident” in the country’s forthcoming economic performance. This is compared to 55.9 per cent of people in companies with a headcount of between one and nine, 58 per cent of people in companies with a headcount between 10 and 99, and just 50 per cent of people in companies larger than 100.