Wednesday, September 20th, 2005

Survey BB87 August 2005

The August survey put a series of questions posed by the Bank of England and the Government Office, which offer the opportunity to examine issues such as investment in plant and equipment, pre tax profit margins, growth of costs, working up to capacity and changes in numbers of full time equivalent employees. Also included were questions on how frequently respondents upgrading their computer hardware, the user friendly they find modern technology and the impact of the recent increase in oil prices.

Click here to download this document in Word.

  • About the respondents

    The UK Business Barometer surveys the people running small and medium size businesses. In the July survey 153 respondents were drawn with the following population characteristics:

    Production & Manufacturing Distribution Services Total
    26.1% 8.5% 65.4% 100.0%

    Turnover ()
    < 1 M 1M-3M >3M Total
    69.9% 17.6% 12.4% 100.0%

    Number of Full-time Employees
    1-10 11-20 21-50 51-100 100+ Grand Total
    56.2% 30.1% 5.9% 3.9% 3.9% 100.0%

    Survey Findings

    The first two questions in the August Survey asked panellists about any changes they made in investment in plant and equipment over the last year and any changes they are expecting to make over the next year. There was a positive balance between the increases and the decreases in both last year and for the coming year, Comparing the two time periods shows respondents to be more cautious going forward, with fewer expecting to make significant increases and a greater number expecting to decrease this type of investment.

    Over the last 6 months 21% of respondents have seen pre-tax profit margins rise, while 44% have experienced decreases. This contrasts with the last time we asked this type of question, in November 2004, when 55% had seen rises and 14% had seen falls. The next 6 months appears brighter, with 29% expecting pre-tax profits to grow, while only 20% expect reductions. This still does not reach the levels of the November 2004 responses, when 43% looked forward to increases in the following six months, compared to 11% expecting decreases.

    Regarding costs, there was consistency between respondents' recent experiences and short term expectations. 58% say that growth in costs has risen over the last 6 months and 59% say that they expect rates of increases to rise over the next 6 months, while 3% have seen cost-growth reduction and a similar number expect lower growth in costs to come.

    Fewer respondents are running at near-full capacity currently than in September 2004. Then the figure then was 35% of UKBB respondents, compared with 30% this August. Small increases were shown in the 70% - 89% and 50% - 60% utilisation brackets, with the lower levels of utilisation reducing by less than 1%.

    Over the last six months 22% of respondents have increased the number of full time equivalent employees in their businesses and 21% also expect to increase over the next six months. Although 18% said that the number of their employees has fallen in the last 6 months, only 11% expect falls in the next half year.

    84% of respondents to the UKBB expect to upgrade their computer hardware more frequently than four-yearly. The same question was asked in the August Barometer Survey of business advisers, the UKBAB and the corresponding figure was 88%. Most respondents to the two surveys find modern technology is generally more user friendly than five years ago. 73% of UKBB respondents and 79% of UKBAB respondents said 'more' or 'significantly more' in response to this question.

    Nearly one quarter of UKBB respondents expect the recent oil price rise to have a significant impact upon their business, and a further 60% are expecting some impact. This is reasonably close to the expectations of the business advisers, who were asked in the UKBAB to what extent the oil price increase would have on their clients businesses. 25% of advisers believed that the impact would be significant and a further 66% foresaw some impact.

    Listed below are extracts from feedback received in Survey BB87 August 2005.

    Comments are listed under sector headings.

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

    Business Services

    It might be a useful exercise to investigate the impact on SME's of Employment Legislation in relation to employing females of child bearing age.

    Government red tape is increasing costs


    Worldwide metal prices are also having a large impact on our business; i.e. finished metal product prices rising by 12 - 15% in past 12 months.