Tuesday, February 1st, 2004

The January survey raised questions on sales and competition, business expectations for 2004, the 'terrorist threat', stress related illnesses in the workplace, health, age and productivity growth.

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  • About the respondents

    155 respondents were drawn with the following population characteristics:

    Sector
    Production & Manufacturing Distribution Services Total
    32.3% 7.7% 60.0% 100.0%


    Turnover ()
    < 1 M 1M-3M >3M Total
    65.2% 20.6% 14.2% 100.0%


    Number of Full-time Employees
    1-10 11-20 21-50 51-100 100+ Grand Total
    54.2% 31.6% 7.1% 3.2% 3.9% 100.0%


  • 1 There was very little change in sales in November and December 2003 compared with 2002, with 43% reporting more buoyancy compared with last year's 45%, and 28% reporting less buoyancy compared with last year's 29%. The outlook for the first quarter of 2004 is just a little more optimistic, with 50% expecting more buoyancy than in 2003 Q1 compared with 48% last year, while 18% expect less buoyancy compared with 21% last year.





  • 2 Most of the businesses run by our respondents face considerable competition. Although the percentage that rate themselves as having a highly competitive marketplace has stayed level at 39% over the last year, there was a small increase, from 40% to 43% in those rating themselves as being in a relatively highly competitive market. Less than 1% reckon on no competition for their market.



  • 3 UKBB respondents were more upbeat in their response to the question on forthcoming business expectation compared to last September. We also asked the UK Business Advisers Barometer (UKBAB) respondents what their expectations are for the economy compared to a year ago. Both balanced towards optimism, with 7% of UKBB respondents being significantly more optimistic and 48% being more optimistic, while 2% of the UKBAB respondents were significantly more optimistic and 46% were more optimistic. 27% of businesses thought it was about the same, while 19% of businesses were more, or much more, pessimistic compared to 11% of advisers.



  • 4 Amid continuing public concern about potential terrorist attack on the UK, any impact on smaller businesses has yet to emerge in any detail. Respondents to both the UKBB and the UKBAB do not appear to be unduly worried as 54% of UKBB respondents and 51% of UKBAB do not take it into account in their decision taking. 25% of businesses and 41% of business advisers only include the potential threat to a small extent, but 9% of UKBB and 3% of UKBAB are highly or relatively highly inclusive of the 'terrorist threat' factor.





    5 The previous question's results were consistent with the responses given to two related questions, on air travel security and security for other forms of public transport. 10% of UKBB respondents feel that, in spite of the new security measures, air travel is unsafe or very unsafe and 14% feel that similar or equivalent measures should be applied in other forms of public transport.





    6 Two questions on health indicate that business people believe both that stress is a more relevant factor at work nowadays and that more people are more health conscious. 67% of respondents agree or strongly agree that the incidence of stress related illnesses has increased recently, compared to the response two years ago of 46%, while the percentage who neither agree nor disagree has reduced from 33% to 22%. The group that disagrees or strongly disagrees has also contracted, from 21% to 11%. 55% of respondents think that business people are becoming more or much more health conscious, while 38% think there is no change. Only 7% think they are becoming less health conscious.





  • 7 Many respondents do not rate age as a very important factor when recruiting, with 46% saying it is not at all or only very slightly important. However this is a decrease in percentage from when this question was last asked, in August 2001, when the response was 60%. The percentage who consider age is important at the recruitment stage has more than doubled, from 14% to 29% of respondents opting for the highly important and relatively highly important categories. 88% of respondents think that the age of retirement will increase to a high or relatively high extent, because of current and future pension conditions.



    8 From the choices provided, the majority of the UKBB respondents, 56%, think that reform of the regulatory burden on enterprise would be the most important contribution to promoting productivity. The second most popular choice, but by a wide margin at 19% of respondents, was for overcoming barriers to raising finance for small business. Business Advisers, answering the same question in the UKBAB survey this month, have similar priorities, but with 49% selecting reform of the regulatory burden on enterprise and 27% choosing overcoming barriers to raising finance.



    Listed below are extracts from feedback received in Survey BB68 January 2004.

    Comments are listed under sector headings.

    Views expressed are those of individual panellists and may not represent those of the University.

    Production & Manufacturing

  • The older the applicant the better. Older people are better educated, more reliable, and more reasonable about job expectations

    Business Services

  • Your question about pensions asks for our view of what will happen, it should also ask whether or not we see this as beneficial or detrimental to our businesses - It is likely to be an absolute disaster!

  • Just an observation relating to Q8. Stress may be increasing, but the amount of time some people take off work for so-called stress [on days when they want a "sickie"] does appear to be increasing - sadly

  • As the small/medium business marketplace is meeting new challenges in 2004 it is imperative that the government helps businesses with grants and low cost loans to survive their peaks and troughs, and encourages lenders to take a global long term approach in their reviews and funding policies.

    Other

  • The value of the is starting to hurt

  • Over-regulation is the key feature in my business life. This government wants to control everything we do. The latest idea is barmy, that we all put thermostatic controls on our hot taps to prevent scalding. I've got these on two baths at work; they scale up every 18 months and need a plumber to sort them out. No plumbers - all the potential young plumbers are now doing mickey mouse degrees at 'university' (sorry, I mean just another advanced technical college, pretending to be.....) Grrrrrr!

  • Interesting questions

    Retail

  • Re Q.12

    The Chancellors Pre Budget statement highlighted various areas of activity to promote productivity growth. Which of those listed below do you feel is the most important?

    a) reform of the regulatory burden on enterprise

    b) overcoming barriers to raising finance for small business

    c) measures to promote regional growth by local authorities

    d) promoting entrepreneurial skills in young people

    One has to choose a 'least worse' option. In my opinion none of the alternatives are likely to be of value to small business. It would be more beneficial for the chancellor to abolish the bureacracy behind the provision of these 'initiatives' and relieve the taxpayer of the burden of innumerable civil service salaries.