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Business Confidence In Scotland Falls During October

Posted: 31st October 2023
  • Business confidence in Scotland falls seven points in October to 26%, but firms remain optimistic in their own trading prospects, at 44%
  • Scottish businesses identified their top target areas for growth in the next six months as evolving their offer (37%), introducing new technology (37%) and entering new markets (31%)
  • Overall UK business confidence increased three points in October to 39% with firms’ outlook on the economy also up by four points at 34%

Business confidence in Scotland fell seven points during October to 26%, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Companies in Scotland reported higher confidence in their own business prospects month-on-month, up five points at 44%. When taken alongside their optimism in the economy, down 19 points to 10%, this gives a headline confidence reading of 26%.

Scottish businesses identified their top target areas for growth in the next six months as months as evolving their offer (37%), introducing new technology (37%) and entering new markets (31%).

The Business Barometer, which surveys 1,200 businesses monthly, provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

A net balance of 33% of businesses in the region expect to increase staff levels over the next year, up two points on last month.

National picture

Overall UK business confidence rose three points in October from 36% to 39%, and firms’ outlook on the overall UK economy increased four points to 34%. Businesses’ confidence in their own trading prospects also continued the upward trend, rising four points to 45%.

Companies’ hiring intentions reached their highest level since May last year, with 32% of firms intending to increase staff levels over the next 12 months, up six points month-on-month.

Firms in Yorkshire reported the highest levels of business confidence, jumping 12 points to 52% – the highest reading for the region since March 2022. Companies in the South West reported the biggest uptick in business confidence, increasing 26 points month-on-month to 47%.

Following a fall in confidence in September, the retail and service industries both saw an increase in business confidence, with retail business confidence increasing by five points to 37% and services rising seven points to 43%. Levels are still lower than seen in August, however, when retail business confidence was at 44% and services at 42%. Manufacturing confidence was 36%, unchanged from last month when confidence rose to a three-month high. Construction fell for a second month in a row to 31% (down five points).

Martyn Kendrick, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland, said:

“Despite the drop in overall business confidence, it’s reassuring to see that firms across the country remain optimistic about their own trading prospects as we head into the final quarter of the year.

“As we approach Christmas, and what’s the busiest trading period of the year for many Scottish firms, those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors companies will benefit from maintaining a steady cashflow to remain resilient and be well-placed to seize any opportunities to grow. It’s no secret that Christmas can be a frenetic and expensive time for businesses and their customers, so firms need to have a plan in place to manage this, as well as having some money aside to cover unexpected costs.

“We’ll remain by the side of Scottish businesses to help them capitalise on avenues for growth in the final months of the year.”

Paul Gordon, managing director for SME and Mid Corporates at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:

“Retail and service sectors have clearly felt reassured this month, after confidence fell in September. While others have commented that consumers may be feeling the strain, our data shows that in terms of their future appetite, it certainly isn’t ‘doom and gloom’ for retailers.

“However, higher energy costs and rising oil prices will undoubtedly have an impact on consumers and businesses alike. If businesses can look to their future financial stability now and ensure cash-flow remains a priority, that should put them in good stead for the months ahead.”

Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:

“Business confidence this month reflects a more positive outlook as we head into the important festive period, with trading prospects and economic optimism both at their second highest levels this year. The level also underlines the wider upward trend of steadily rising confidence in 2023. If you look at the year in quarterly time periods, confidence has steadily risen from 20% in the first quarter, 26% in the second and in September an average of 27% in the third.

“However, our data shows that firms are still safeguarding their profit margins in response to the possibility of interest rates remaining high, wage increase pressures, and the prospect of higher energy prices again this winter.

“Therefore, businesses will be keeping a keen eye on the forthcoming Autumn Statement and Bank of England policy announcements as they navigate through a challenging economic period ahead.”

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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