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Issue:- 10/11 March 2010

Recession-fighting firms focusing on sales and marketing, survey finds

SMALL businesses are hoping to beat the recession by stepping up their sales and marketing strategies, a new survey has revealed.  After cutting operating costs to the bare minimum, many smaller firms are hiring sales staff, improving their websites and boosting marketing activities in an effort to tackle tough trading conditions.

The research was carried out by the not-for-profit Forum of Private Business (FPB) also found that business owners expect their efforts will pay off. More than half (56%) of those surveyed expect to increase their turnover in 2010 and 44% believe their business will grow.

The findings are the first of the FPB’s new ‘economy watch’ panel – a body of more than 350 members who are sharing their experiences as the economy heads away from recession.

The panel is designed to provide an accurate and timely reflection of what small businesses are experiencing on the ground. Its findings will be released on a monthly basis.

The results of the first economy watch panel paint a generally positive picture, with firms expressing a defiant attitude to the downturn and only 13% concentrating on cutting costs. Perhaps surprisingly, 80% of those surveyed described the cost of borrowing as ‘affordable’.

However, business owners expect to see continuing tough times ahead. A significant 60% of those surveyed expect to see the general cost of business to increase this year and an overwhelming 76% are anticipating tax increases.

Additionally, almost half (48%) of those surveyed had been required to provide personal guarantees for loans, while 26% had to secure loans, often on properties, in order to access affordable interest rates. Some members reported interest rates of more than 20% for unsecured borrowing.

Commenting on the results, the FPB’s research manager, Thomas Parry, said:- “These findings are quite encouraging and show there’s a healthy amount of fighting spirit among smaller firms. We appear to be seeing an upturn in confidence among SMEs and, by investing in sales and marketing strategies, small business owners are showing determination and entrepreneurial flair. However, much of this optimism is based on the hope of a recovering economy and increased business and consumer confidence. Political, economic and currency stability are all important too, with a proportion of businesses suffering from the weak pound. Also, the difficulty for businesses in terms of planning is indicated by the fact that almost one in five businesses are uncertain about the support they may want in the next month.  Businesses currently have a relatively high level of debt, but the low base rate has made the cost of finance to be relatively affordable with 80% of the firms we surveyed stating that it was affordable. However, even those who felt it was affordable were concerned that when economic growth becomes more sustainable, the cost of borrowing is likely to increase.”


SEFTON Coroners Office have appealed for the next of kin of a man who died on Saturday, 27 February 2010 in Birkdale to contact them. George Forbes Thompson, 84, died at his home on Carr Lane, Birkdale, Merseyside. There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. The Coroner's Office has been unable to trace Mr Thompson's next of kin and is appealing for any relatives to come forward. Any next of kin, or anyone who has information about Mr Thompson's next of kin, is asked to contact the office of H.M. Coroner on:- 0151 934 2746 or the Coroner's Officers at Southport Police Station on:- 0151 777 3480.

EU help for small businesses

NORTH West MEP Chris Davies is calling for small businesses to be freed from the bureaucratic burden of having to produce annual accounts.

Chris Davies says the requirement serves no good purpose and its removal will have no effect upon the tax that must be paid. The European Parliament has voted to simplify procedures for businesses with a turnover of less than £1 million or employing fewer than 10 people. Now there is a call for Europe-wide legislation to be introduced to put the measure into effect. Nearly 90% of businesses would benefit from the reduction in red tape including 25,890 in Merseyside.

Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Chris Davies voted for the measure and said:- “A small family business shouldn’t have to follow the same accounting rules as BT or Barclays. Small business will still need to keep accurate accounts but they will spend less time satisfying Government bureaucrats. Now we need the UK Government to get behind this idea and set small businesses free to create jobs and wealth and push forward the economic recovery.”


IN celebration of International Women’s Day, Business Link Northwest is urging Merseyside women to harness their entrepreneurial spirit and think about starting a business.

As the largest under represented group in enterprise, women offer a wealth of untapped talent and could significantly boost the region’s economy. There are currently less than 6,500 female majority owned businesses in Merseyside, which accounts for 8% of all companies in the area. This compares favourably to the rest of the North West, where women-owned businesses account for just 7% of all businesses.

Looking at the industries in which female entrepreneurs are most prevalent in Merseyside, 15% operate within the business and professional services sector. This is followed by 8% who run food and drink businesses and 5% who sit at the helm of digital and creative companies.

Across the North West, 76% of women-owned businesses have 0 – six employees, while 4% employ more than 25 people.

Ellen Kerr, outreach team leader at Business Link Northwest, said:- “Getting more women into business and supporting female entrepreneurs is a key priority for the region’s economy. Women can access a wealth of information and support through Business Link Northwest to help them develop and grow their enterprise, whether it’s a new business or an existing company.”

Liz Howard is a local female entrepreneur who launched her own company, The Novelty Warehouse, in 2008. Speaking about the merits of being her own boss and using the Business Link service, she said:- “Running a company can be challenging and hard work at times but it’s also very rewarding and I can honestly say I’ve never looked back. Business Link has supported me with my ambitions to start and grow the business and it’s been great to have that impartial guidance. I’m so pleased to be working closely with Business Link. My Adviser has inspired and motivated me, enabling me to make the very best of my business.”

Female entrepreneurs and those who are interested in starting their own company can find out more by visiting the dedicated section on the Business Link website. It pulls together a wealth of information and e-guides around the topic, along with details of upcoming events and networking opportunities. Alternatively, call 0845 00 66 888 for more information.

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