Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

The 72nd UK Business Barometer Survey asked for views on EU enlargement, the quality of the postal service, credit as it affects sales and orders, recruitment and staff retention and the extension of the Telephone Preference Service.

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  • About the respondents

    163 respondents were drawn with the following population characteristics:

    Sector
    Production & Manufacturing Distribution Services Total
    28.2% 8.0% 63.8% 100.0%


    Turnover ()
    < 1 M 1M-3M >3M Total
    70.6% 17.8% 11.7% 100.0%


    Number of Full-time Employees
    1-10 11-20 21-50 51-100 100+ Grand Total
    60.1% 28.2% 4.9% 3.1% 3.7% 100.0%


  • Survey Findings

  • Since 10 new countries were admitted to membership of the EU on May 1st 2004, we asked questions around the theme of the impact on the businesses of our panellists.

  • The opinion of Business Advisers on how the level of competition for their clients might be affected was also sought in the parallel survey, the UK Business Advisers Survey (UKBAB). Less than 5% of Business Barometer panellists, and a smaller percentage of Advisers thought it would highly affect businesses. A total of 66% of UKBB and 64% of BAB respondents thought it would not have any effect, or would affect them very slightly.



  • 21% of BB respondents believe that the EU enlargement will provide opportunities for new markets to a high or reasonably high extent, while 13% think that opportunities for sources of supply will increase.



  • Recently there has been some strong reaction through the media, to poor performance records by the Royal Mail in terms of timeliness of deliveries achieved and post lost en route. The debate provided the opportunity to include questions on the topic in this month's survey. Firstly, well over half of both Business and Advisers agree that quality has suffered in the last year, with 64% of Businesses and 70% of Advisers saying that it has worsened or worsened significantly.



  • Secondly, 36% of Businesses and 40% of Advisers say that the incidence of undelivered and lost mail to their businesses has increased over the last year, although 34% of both say this was unchanged and 28% of Business and 23% of Advisers say that they have not experienced undelivered or lost mail to date.





  • On May 6th 2004 the Bank of England announced the third interest rate rise since November 2003. It was also announced recently that credit card debt in the UK is at its highest ever level. Although this has helped to sustain consumer spending in the recent past, the burden of debt repayment has increased and the question this gave rise to was whether, with this combined national position of higher interest rates and higher debt levels, businesses would be likely to feel an impact on their sales.

  • Most businesses and advisers do not foresee any change in sales or orders over the next year, although 18% of businesses and 19% of Advisers, for their clients, expect a downturn, and 20% of business and 12% of Advisers, for their clients, expect an upturn.





  • Fewer respondents this year expect pay settlements to be higher than last year. The December 2002 survey question was comparing expected 2003 pay settlements with 2002 and 68% now expect settlements to be the same as last year, compared with 44% last time.





  • Excluding the 20% of respondents for whom this question is not applicable, 65% of the remainder say that staff retention is not a problem, either slightly or at all. This shows an easing of constraints compared with February 2003, when the figure was 52%. 16% still find staff retention a problem either highly or moderately highly, but this compares with 35% previously.





  • Excluding the 15% of respondents for whom this question is not applicable, 55% of the remainder expect that their employee numbers will remain the same over the next six months, while 33% expect to increase staff and 11% expect a decrease. In May 2003, 43% expected to be increasing the number of their staff over the following six months, while 9% expected to have to cut staff.





  • Respondents to the Business Advisers Barometer were asked to what extent their clients find themselves recruiting graduates for what might previously have been non-graduate posts. 5% BB respondents out of those who found this question applicable, found this to a high extent, with 10% moderately highly, compared to 1% and 25% respectively from the BAB. Those who don't find this at all amounted to 44% from the BB and 31% from the BAB, again after adjusting for those who are not applicable.





  • The extension of the Telephone Preference Service takes place this month and may either help or hinder businesses, according to their needs. 9% of respondents thought it would have a positive or significantly positive effect, 35% thought it would have no effect, and 20% thought the effect would be negative or significantly negative. 37% don't know.



  • The findings of both the UKBB and the UKBAB surveys for May 2004 are given for comparison: the identical question was asked and although 36% of both responded with 'don't know', 46% of the remaining BB respondents and 50% of the remaining BAB respondents believe that the extension to Telephone Preference Service effects will be either negative or significantly negative upon entrepreneurial activity.



  • Listed below are extracts from feedback received in Survey BB72 May 2004.

    Comments are listed under sector headings.

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

    production & Manufacturing

    You should ask about the impact of huge legal/illegal immigration to the UK and if we feel that the government are deliberately ignoring the problem to avoid embarrassment. .

    The TELEPHONE PREFERENCE SERVICE is one of the stupidest ANTI BUSINESS bits of legislation ever to hit us. The day is not far away when we all pack up, become civil servants, or work in cheap clothing shops with produce made in China, Korea and Singapore

    Business Services

    How are businesses to market themselves? Royal Mail is expensive and unreliable and only 1% respond; mass emails are blocked; now TPS is to be extended to business.

    TPS for businesses should be based on an opt out election and not opt in.

    Spam e-mail is becoming a significant problem for my company. Any chance of a survey question on this for the next survey?

    I feel that most changes made by government do not take into account the full extent of the impact that it makes to sole traders and new businesses. It would be a good idea if government changes gave incentives to allow the new processes, changes etc.. to filter into small businesses without taking such a immediate or drastic toll on the whole business in one hit.

    The TPS extension to business has not been thought through. For large companies using large databases per month there is a means of having their database "cleaned" for a cost through TPS. However, TPS do not (yet) appear to have a similar facility for small businesses sending out, say, 25 to 30 mailings per week. Therefore, their ability to have their mailing lists "cleaned" is restricted. A means of checking companies against a website to determine if they are registered with TPS (preferably for free given it is Government regulation which is creating this problem) would be very useful for small businesses.