Challenging domestic conditions, access to finance and weak consumer demand are taking their toll on the optimism of small companies, according to a study from the Federation of Small Businesses.
Challenging domestic conditions, access to finance and weak consumer demand are taking their toll on the optimism of small companies, according to a study from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The FSB's ‘Voice of Small Business' Index shows small business confidence levels tumbled 5.8 points to -4.5 in the third quarter – the fourth lowest score since the start of 2010.
However, the figure is still 20 points higher than in Q4 2011 when the economy fell sharply back into recession.
Despite difficult conditions, small firms continue to show their resilience, with half of the 2,600 respondents wanting to grow in the coming 12 months.
These growth intentions continue to be threatened, though, by an increase in the number of businesses being refused finance.
In the quarter, 21.6 per cent of respondents had applied for finance – down one percentage point on Q2. However, the number of refusals increased from 40.6 per cent in Q2 to 42.4 per cent in Q3, with almost two thirds of members feeling the availability of credit is poor.
More than 60 per cent of firms also think that finance is unaffordable – a percentage that has increased each quarter in 2012.
The FSB has welcomed proposals for a state-backed business bank to address the lending issue. The organisation has long called for such an institution to be modelled on the Small Business Administration in the US, set up in 1953, which has successfully helped small firms access finance through a range of loan products.
FSB national chairman John Walker says, ‘It isn't surprising that confidence fell back into negative territory as the recession entered its third quarter as growth flat-lines. The message is clear though – businesses want to grow and invest but they need a helping hand to do so.
‘It is frustrating that bank finance is still difficult to get. No matter what is said about demand, more than 40 per cent of applicants have been refused in each quarter this year. This has to change if growth aspirations are to be met.’