News in brief: overtime, e-retailing, devolution, business rates

News in brief
News in brief

Britain’s SMEs working overtime

Britain’s SMEs are working on average the equivalent of an extra eight hour day each week, equating to 52 days overtime a year, according to a new survey for business e-lender Everline.

The research, which surveyed more than 1,000 SME decision makers, found that a third (33%) work up to 10 hours overtime a week, while 1 in 10 work between 10-12 hours. The most common time for small businesses to be switched on outside of normal office hours is between 8pm to 10pm with just over a fifth (21%) quoting this as the time they’re most likely to be logging on late. More than half (57%) admitted spending their weekends playing catch-up on work, while 14% are early birds, logging on to put in the extra time between 6am to 8am.

Checking and replying to emails was the most prevalent activity to do out of hours favoured by three quarters (75%) of respondents, while just over a third (34%) spent the time on finance and accounting. A further 29% said they spent their extra hours calling clients, confirming working culture in the UK is no longer nine to five.

E-retailers confident of growth in 2016

Royal Mail’s annual tracker study into the expectations and ambitions of UK SME e-retailers reveals growing business confidence: eight out of ten small e-retailers are confident they will increase sales in 2016. This is up from seven out of ten e-retailers who expressed confidence last year.

The confident outlook builds on the sales success of 2015. More than seven out of ten (7%) SME e-retailers increased their sales last year. This is the highest level in the last three years: 58% reported increased sales in 2014 and 49% reported sales growth in 2013.

Small UK e-retailers are also confident about their customer satisfaction levels: 63 per cent believe their customers have become more satisfied in the last year.

The most common factor in driving customer satisfaction is on-time delivery, voted by two thirds (66 per cent) of small e-retailers. This is more than the number of SME e-retailers who consider the quality of products (62%) and the price of goods (57%) as key drivers of customer satisfaction.

Devolution to impact banking competition for SMEs

In 2016 the government’s new devolution policies will provide opportunities and challenges for SMEs, according to Hampshire Trust Bank’s CEO Mark Sismey-Durrant. He believes that Economic and political uncertainty could dampen business appetite for growth and that capital requirements continue to impact on banking competition.

Sismey-Durrant said: “2016 needs to be a year of productivity for UK business. We have witnessed an array of regulatory changes from the Government this year and now is the time for businesses to make the most of the new opportunities presented to them and focus on what they do best – running their companies to drive economic growth and job creation.

“While devolution is still some way off, we are beginning to see the plans take shape and this will continue to be fleshed out in 2016.

“If the appropriate amount of economic support is provided at a regional level then there is an opportunity to create thriving local environments that could help stimulate business growth. However, the approach taken may vary from region to region, meaning that some SMEs may benefit more than others.”

Business rates are a big cost for SMEs to account for. Plans to allow local councils to set business rates, introduces a certain level of uncertainty, as levels may vary from region to region.

Pensioners are a driving force in health and fitness start-ups

The over 65s are helping to power a boom in the UK’s health and fitness industry, while the overall number of new small and medium-sized businesses in the sector has risen by 37% since 2012, according to new data from Barclays Business.

The research, which looks at the number of Barclays’ business customers in the health & fitness industry, reveals a surge in the number of power-lifting pensioners setting up their own health & fitness clubs, rising by a quarter (25%) in the last three years. This accounts five per cent of total health & fitness clubs on average.

The findings also show that the sector has benefitted from strong levels of health-conscious consumer spending, with a growth in total turnover of 41% since 2012. In addition to the rise in new enterprises, 1 in 5 (20%) have been running for ten years or more. This correlates with figures from the Leisure Database Company which show that the sector is in good health, with more members and a greater market value than ever before.

Key findings from the research include:

• Number of UK health & fitness SMEs up 37% since 2012;

• Health & fitness business owners aged 65+ have risen by a quarter (25%) in the last three years

• Over half are owned by women (52%), up 28% since 2012

• London, the South East and East of England are the UK’s “fitness hot-spots”