SMEs doing all right, but still need help
SMALL businesses in Huntingdonshire seem still to be weathering the economic storm, though some retailers are finding the going tough, the Federation of Small Businesses says. But retailers and other small companies need a shot in the arm from the Governm
SMALL businesses in Huntingdonshire seem still to be weathering the economic storm, though some retailers are finding the going tough, the Federation of Small Businesses says.
But retailers and other small companies need a shot in the arm from the Government and the retail banks, says Malcolm Lyons, local chairman of the FSB and sponsor of The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Small Business of the Year Award 2009.
"It's a great showcase for small businesses, and we are pleased to support it as their champion," he said this week.
"In spite of the tough economic climate, I hope we shall get plenty of entries to demonstrate that smaller companies can survive in difficult times."
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Key improvements route be for Whitehall to trigger automatic business rate relief for small firms, so that they no longer had to fill in the forms to apply for it, and for the high street banks - particularly those that have been substantially nationalised in the last year - to start passing on the Bank of England's additional liquidity in loans and other credit facilities to SMEs, as they have promised.
With around 90 per cent of Huntingdonshire workers involved in small and medium-sized enterprises, such moves could help shore up firms in recession-affected sectors, protecting jobs, as well as giving other, more buoyant, companies the impetus they need to expand to fulfil unmet demand.
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Mr Lyons acknowledged that those firms that rely heavily on petrol or diesel - particularly those that rely heavily on the use of vans - had been hit strongly by the global rise in the price of crude oil last year and were now concerned that pump prices were starting to rise again after a dramatic and welcome fall in the autumn.
Sales have held up reasonably well in the high street, perhaps because plummeting interest rates have discouraged saving.
"People are still a little bit cautious because of concerns about the whole economic picture. But the best survivors are always small businesses, of which there is still a growing number.
"But some prices are down and some things are still cheap, so the rises are not across the board. But the leisure sector seems to be immune to some extent. People will still want to go out. And we should be expanding what we offer tourists, now that exchange rates are encouraging people to stay at home more."
The small business sector's great strength was that it was employers cared about their workers, the champion said. "One of the biggest worries was inflationary pressure on wages, but that seems to have evaporated.
"I don't get a sense of pessimism from members.