Friday 21st November

Small businesses call for simpler taxes

Tax simplification and better infrastructure for the UK are top of the list of small business demands ahead of the Autumn Statement....

Tax simplification and better infrastructure for the UK are top of the list of small business demands ahead of the Autumn Statement.

In its submission to chancellor George Osborne, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called for an extension to business rate relief which is due to finish in March. It also wants changes to the process of valuing property and appeals which it describes as “overly bureaucratic”.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘mini-Budget’ the Autumn Statement is an increasingly important event in the business calendar. In it, the government sets out tax and spending priorities for the next six months.

This will be last Autumn Statement ahead of the general election in May 2015. Pressure groups are lining up to request special treatment from the chancellor, who they know will be under pressure to deliver vote-winning measures.

The FSB is also calling for simpler taxes to reduce the cost to businesses of complying with legislation. Research by the FSB shows that more than three-quarters of small businesses pay 3,500 or more per year on tax-related paperwork.

Three fifths said the UK tax system has a negative impact on their ability to recruit and grow.

John Allan, national chairman of the FSB, said: “Businesses will be looking for measures to ease the cost of business rates, and a commitment to fundamental reform of the current, outdated system.

“To support business growth and reduce costs, further efforts to simplify our complex tax system should also form a central part of the Autumn Statement."

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Thursday 20th November

UK shoppers to splash £75bn on Christmas

Shoppers in the UK are set to ignore news of brewing problems in the international economy and spend a whopping £74.3 billion in the run-up to Christmas, according to new data....

Shoppers in the UK are set to ignore news of brewing problems in the international economy and spend a whopping £74.3 billion in the run-up to Christmas, according to new data.

Research commissioned by RetailMeNot and carried out by the Centre for Retail Research also found that £1 in every £4 would be spent online this year.

Growth in online sales is expected to hit almost 20% compared with Christmas 2013 and total online sales are expected to reach £17.4 billion, from £14.5 billion this time last year.

But, for now at least, the high street continues to dominate shopping trends with consumers expected splash out just under £57 billion.

RetailMeNot said it expects online sales to rise proportionally against sales in bricks and mortar shops as Christmas Day draws closer.

Giulio Montemagno at RetailMeNot said: “Retail spending in the weeks before Christmas is the most important period of trading for retailers both online and offline. Retailers, particularly of specialist merchandise, will often take 20% or more of their sales in this period.

“This Christmas looks set to be a bumper year for online retailers as a record number of consumers will be turning to the web to order gifts…retailers must ensure that they are appealing to consumers through mobile and tablet devices.”

The study also found that shoppers in the UK will spend more on Christmas than people in any other European country. UK households will spend £459 on average on gifts alone – more even than the US.

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Wednesday 19th November

‘App economy’ grows 11% in a year

Employment in the UK’s app economy has jumped 63,000, or 11%, in a single year, with the total number of IT workers hitting a record high, according to new stats....

Employment in the UK’s app economy has jumped 63,000, or 11%, in a single year, with the total number of IT workers hitting a record high, according to new stats.

Numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of web designing and programming jobs have increased from 63,000 in the second quarter of 2013 to 70,000 during the same period this year.

Meanwhile accountancy business NoPalaver Group said businesses were adapting to changes in tech, with traditional bricks and mortar businesses shifting their business online.

They were also becoming better at using social media to connect with customers and promote offers, it said.

It said the app industry had grown significantly in the last three years, with start-ups transforming into big established firms quickly. It pointed to Candy Crush, created by King Digital, which reported latest quarterly revenues of $496 million.

Graham Jenner, director at NoPalaver, said: “The importance of the ‘app economy’ is being fully realised by increasing numbers of businesses eager to recruit the very best IT professionals to ensure they benefit from the app revolution.”

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Bosses urged to commit to family friendly working

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has called on businesses to adopt more family-friendly policies after research showed many fathers struggle to get time off to look after children....

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has called on businesses to adopt more family-friendly policies after research showed many fathers struggle to get time off to look after children.

Results from a Mumsnet survey revealed that 39% of new dads have used annual leave to get time off after their child was born, while four in five respondents said they had wanted the father to take more paternity leave.

Last month Deloitte, PwC and Shell, employing between them more than 100,000 people in the UK, announced they would offer enhanced paternity packages to all employees.

Clegg is at the CBI this morning, hosting a forum with Mumsnet and large employers to discuss how business can retain parents in the workforce by offering balanced employment contracts.

“It is bizarre that even in the 21st century, hundreds and thousands of employees are still restricted by Edwardian rules when it comes to juggling their work and family lives,” he said.

“We need a modern Britain that works for modern families, not against them. I’ve fought hard in government to bring about that change whether it’s through the introduction of flexible working, free childcare, shared parental leave or equalising paternity pay.”

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Tuesday 18th November

Infographic: Interest rates deter small biz savers

UK small businesses are following the pattern of consumers and falling to put money away for a rainy day, new research suggests....

UK small businesses are following the pattern of consumers and falling to put money away for a rainy day, new research suggests.

[Scroll for infographic]
Just one in three small and medium businesses in the UK have a savings account, according to research from Aldermore published today.

Of those that do have a savings account, 90% do so with the same institution as their current account.

Around four in 10 said their savings account’s primary use was to hold on to surplus funds. A third use theirs for taxes and 34% said it helped fluctuations in cashflow.

Aldermore managing director of savings Simon Healy said: “While rates remain relatively low, it is easy to understand why many businesses are attracted to the convenience of keeping their savings with their current account provider.

“However, it is important to ensure that any surplus funds are working as hard as business owners do.

“There are significant differences in the interest rates available on deposit accounts and it is important that businesses do not lose out on maximising the return they get on their hard-earned surplus funds.”

In other findings from the research, more than 10% of businesses said they never review their savings, while 28% said they would be more likely to save should interest rates increase in the next 12 months.

Aldermore Savings Report Infographic

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Monday 17th November

All aboard for Global Entrepreneurship Week

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), a series of business-themed events taking place across the world, kicked off today with the intention of empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs....

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), a series of business-themed events taking place across the world, kicked off today with the intention of empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs.

The event takes in 140 countries and 30,000 events run by 25,000 different organisations, ranging from school to multi-national blue chips. It is estimated that 300,000 people will be involved.

Supported by Barclays Bank and hosted in the UK by Youth Business International (YBI), It will explore the opportunities and challenges associated with building a global business.

Highlights of the week include the Get Connected launch event in London, Virgin StartUp Ignition’s Business Tricks and Insight for Amazing Women event in London, the Start Up Summit in Edinburgh, and The Enterprise Conference in Aberdeen.

YBI chief executive Andrew Devenport said: “Successful entrepreneurs need connections to get their businesses going, and that’s what Global Entrepreneurship Week aims to deliver.

“The campaign is a great way to celebrate innovators of all ages, show people all of the support that’s available to them, and connect up entrepreneurs with the backing that they need.”

Underlining the government’s support for the GEW, business secretary Vince Cable said: “Thousands of young people are now successfully putting their creativity, drive and aspiration into setting up their own business.

“Private sector growth has been key to our recovery and government has put in place a range of measures to enable young entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into reality.”

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SME manufacturing recovery slows

Small and medium UK manufacturers are feeling the effects of the UK economic recovery, but growth has slowed slightly, according to business group the CBI....

Small and medium UK manufacturers are feeling the effects of the UK economic recovery, but growth has slowed slightly, according to business group the CBI.

In a survey of 406 smaller factories, the CBI reported demands for goods stronger in the domestic market than from abroad. Domestic orders increased for the fifth quarter in a row while export orders dropped sharply.

But prospects remain rosy. Businesses expect export orders to recover and stabilise in the next three months, while orders from UK customers are also expected to strengthen.

More good news came on the jobs front, with numbers working for small manufacturers rising for the third consecutive quarter and expectations for further employment growth, although at a slightly slower pace.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI director of economics, said: “It’s reassuring to see smaller manufacturers sharing in the continuing recovery, with optimism, output and jobs all rising over the last three months.

“Sales in the strengthening UK market are looking good but firms are finding export orders much harder to secure. International political instability and weak growth in the Eurozone is holding back overseas demand.

“But, sentiment is still improving and firms expect overall orders and output to expand at a healthier pace over the next three months.”

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Friday 14th November

Top UK firms to vie for £30,000 prize package

The search is on to find the “great faces of British Business’ in a newly launched competition from the Business is GREAT campaign and communications company BT Business....

The search is on to find the “great faces of British Business’ in a newly launched competition from the Business is GREAT campaign and communications company BT Business.

The competition plans to reward businesses with the best stories involving innovation, growth and export adventures. It will highlight their achievements and aims to emphasise government support on offer as well.

Winners of regional heats will go on to face other champions in the national stage of the competition.

On offer to the “grand prix” winner is a prize package worth an estimated £30,000, including national media coverage, an iPad Air, unlimited BR Wifi for 12 months and a package of export support from UKTI.

To enter, business must be registered in the UK and have between one and 250 staff members. Entrants can pick one of three categories: best exporter, most innovative small business and best growth story.

Announcing the awards, business minister Matthew Hancock said: “This is a top opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution they make to villages, towns and cities across Great Britain.

“I am committed to fostering this entrepreneurial spirit and making sure that Britain is the best place in the world to start and grow a business.”

See link below for more details.

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Newer UK businesses ‘exporting sooner’

Small businesses are starting to export products and services abroad much earlier than they used to, according to new research by Barclays Bank....

Small businesses are starting to export products and services abroad much earlier than they used to, according to new research by Barclays Bank.

A survey of 519 exporters with turnovers up to £5 million revealed that 65% of newer businesses, those who founded from 2007 onwards, started to sell internationally within their first 12 months of trading.

It compares with only 34% of businesses created before 2007. Barclays said the “recession generation” small businesses had to look further afield to find customers.

Newer businesses also said demand was increasing at a faster rate than older firms; up 7% more than companies started in the 1997-to-2006 period.

“The research shows a shift in the time when small business started their export journey, depending on the period the business was formed and against the backdrop of UK economic cycles,” said Steve Childs, head of international for SMEs at Barclays.

“It shows that ‘younger’ businesses whose outlook on UK economy may have been shaken by the events following 2007 and 2008 - have set their sights on overseas horizons right from the start and making a success of this.”

Among other findings from the report, 24% of businesses set up after 2007 said social media including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook had helped increase overseas sales.

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Wednesday 12th November

Bosses take action to close skills gap

Almost all businesses in the UK have encountered a skills shortage in their workplace, but most will be investing in training to counter the problem, according to a major new survey....

Almost all businesses in the UK have encountered a skills shortage in their workplace, but most will be investing in training to counter the problem, according to a major new survey.

The 2014 Workforce Survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) reveals that 92% of UK firms have experienced a skills shortage in at least one key area of the business.

Problem areas identified in the report included leadership and management, planning and organisation, languages, computer literacy and creativity.

Yet, according to the report, four in five organisations covered in the survey claimed to be spending money to solve the problem. Some 80% will invest in training, with about half of this number spending more than £500 per employee.

Nora Senior, president of the BCC, said: “Businesses recognise that investing in training can drive higher productivity and increased profits.

“In addition to specialised training, however, our findings make it clear that investment in leadership and management skills are crucial to enhance strategic thinking, foster innovation and motivate a firm’s employees.”

The biggest barriers to staff development cited by the BCC report included cost, staff availability and a lack of suitable courses.

Senior added: “Accredited Chambers of Commerce provide objective advice to employers on appropriate local training providers, and help negotiate lower costs through group purchasing. Many also offer direct, business-to-business training themselves.”

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