High Streets Initiative · 20 September 2018

Retailers are the most pessimistic small businesses in Britain

Rising wages and property bills were among the factors driving negativity among business owners
Retailers are the most pessimistic small businesses in the UK, according to new findings, with half expecting their performance to worsen up to Christmas.

The latest Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Index revealed that retailers have the lowest confidence level of any sector, with 43% forecasting their fortunes will dive. They blamed surging wage, fuel and property bills for their gloomy mood. Only one in six believe their performance will improve.

Overall the FSB said its confidence index had fallen into negative territory for only the third time since the Brexit vote with optimism amongst sole traders dropping to an all-time low.

It found that, amongst ongoing Brexit uncertainty, only 29% of small firms expect their performance will improve over the next quarter.

Close to three-quarters of small businesses reported that operating costs rose particularly labour, utilities, rent and fuel. With employment levels at record highs, 65% said they had increased wages over the last 12 months. The proportion awarding pay increases of 4% or more 28% hit an all-time high.



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With Rakuten Marketing revealing that 48% of shoppers worldwide have already bought Christmas presents, we were curious to find out if the jolly season was as much of a priority for small businesses.


Almost a third of small exporters reported falling sales in the third quarter, up from 19% in the same period last year. One in five expect this trend to continue in the fourth quarter compared to 15% last time.