SME confidence index hits highest level since Q2 2015 in latest quarterly poll
Research of 1,000 SME owners from Bibbly Financial Services (BFS) shows that SME confidence levels have rebounded to 2015 levels.
Half of SMEs are expecting to see sales rise between April and June this year.
This has jumped by 13 per cent compared with the expectations for the first three months of the year.
Commenting on the findings, BFS CEO, Edward Winterton, said: This has resulted in a marked increase in SME confidence, which is long overdue following two years of tumbling confidence and subdued investment.”
Over the next three months, 41 per cent of SMEs are planning to invest in training and developing existing staff, whilst a quarter of SMEs are planning to bring in new talent.
SME confidence has jumped by 13 per cent compared to the start of 2018.
“It is clear that even limited clarity over Brexit – and some compromise on behalf of both the UK and the EU following recent negotiations – has had a calming effect on SMEs,” added Winterton.
However, recruiting specialist skills remains a key concern for SMEs in 2018.
With near record-low levels of unemployment, 27 per cent of SMEs are struggling to hire skilled workers, and 23 per cent say they have had to increase wages to retain existing skills.
With many firms reliant on overseas workers, there are concerns that the issue will be compounded when the UK leaves the EU next year
Despite rising confidence, 43 per cent of SMEs say that the uncertain economic environment surrounding Brexit are holding back future investment.
Over a third of SME owners would support calls for the UK to remain in both the Single Market and Customs Union, regardless of the Government’s pledge to leave both.
Winterton said: “With just under a year to go before the UK officially leaves the EU, SMEs are concerned about their ability to hire skilled workers both now and in the future. It is vital that UK PLC has clarity on this important issue sooner rather than later to enable investment to start to flow more freely again.
“While it is positive to see confidence return to the backbone of the economy, there are still underlying issues that could impact SMEs’ future investment and recruitment plans. The real learning here is how far a little Brexit progress can go in relation to small business confidence.
“Whatever comes of future Brexit negotiations, for now at least, it seems that SMEs are getting on with business, regardless.”