While official figures show the UK economy contracted in the first quarter of the year, data from the business services sector in the Business Factors Index from Bibby Financial Services shows more positive activity for the period.
Increases in new customers, orders and business enquiries contributed to firms enjoying a positive start to 2012, despite official figures from the ONS in April announcing a return to recession.
The Index from invoice finance specialist Bibby Financial Services, monitors the turnover of its 4,000 clients from a base point of 100 alongside the outlook of 500 business owners. The report has found that performance among firms in the business services sector rose from 87.2 during Q4 2011 to 100.0 in Q1 2012.
In the three months to March 2012, the number of firms winning new customers also rose from 27 per cent to 46 per cent, while there was a 17-per-cent increase in the number which received higher volumes of business enquiries, up to 42 per cent.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year the number of business owners and managers who say they are ‘hopeful for the future’ rose from 26 per cent in Q4 2011 to 35 per cent. There was also a 13-per-cent rise in the number which believe the UK economy is finally showing signs of recovery.
The Index recorded an increase in the number of business services firms seeking external funds to achieve expansion and ensure their business is fit for economic recovery, with 42 per cent of those surveyed having applied for external funding in Q1 2012 compared to 27 per cent in Q4 2011 and 30 per cent in Q1 2011.
Edward Winterton, executive director at Bibby Financial Services, says: “The news in April that the economy fell back into recession during the first quarter was of course a blow to businesses in the UK who are hoping to secure the start of a recovery this year.
“But we need to keep in perspective what those figures actually mean, as they look at the economy as a whole which doesn’t reflect the successes we see in certain sectors or businesses.
“The results from the latest Index make encouraging reading for the business services sector, with increases in the number of orders being placed and new customers being won clearly having an impact on overall business confidence.
“The increase in those seeking outside finance to help fund their business activities is also an encouraging sign, and suggests owners and managers in the sector are beginning to examine the full range of financial support options available to them and understand the key role it can play in their continued success.
“As a leading invoice finance provider for almost 30 years, we understand how important it is to support businesses through difficult times and provide a funding solution that is not only flexible but grows with the needs of the business as they start to benefit from the good times.”