UK small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) could help bolster employment by hiring as many as 3.5 million people this quarter, with businesses that anticipate employee growth planning to hire eight new recruits on average before the end of September.
This is according to data from the latest Barclays Business Barometer – indicating a growing confidence in the economy.
This comes as nearly three-in-five (57 per cent) reported revenue growth last quarter, marking the highest level in 18 months. In fact, nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of SMEs see this trend continuing, predicting revenue increases in a year’s time.
These figures are supported by data from Barclays, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, showing a rise of 1.08 per cent in the volumes of transactions to SMEs in Q2 compared with the same period last year.
Ramping up innovation
Against a backdrop of rising interest rates, businesses are embracing innovation to mitigate rising costs and maintain their competitive edge. To accomplish this, SMEs are turning to technology investments to increase productivity (45 per cent), as well as future-proof their company (44 per cent). Notably, businesses investing in innovation are committing, on average, nearly half (48 per cent) of their annual revenue to technology.
British retailers in particular are confident about growth over the next year, with 8 in 10 (85 per cent) reporting a positive outlook when compared to the last 12 months. In fact, Barclays found that two-thirds (66 per cent) of retail SMEs are open to embracing new technology while, over two-fifths (41 per cent) have established dedicated technology teams within their business, each employing 13 people on average.
Retailers are turning to technology to keep up with the demands of high-street shoppers, with recent Barclays research finding that 7 out of 10 consumers use the Internet to inform how they shop and make savings. For example, online grocery websites have seen an increase of 54% in online traffic, with traffic to non-grocery up by 42%.
In fact, almost all (93 per cent) of retailers say that harnessing data is key to their future success. The past year has seen retailers already actively investing in cutting-edge technologies to enhance operations such as data analytics (18 per cent) and artificial intelligence and machine learning (12 per cent).
Colin O’Flaherty, Head of SME at Barclaycard Payments, said: “It’s promising to see that SMEs are feeling more optimistic about revenue growth and are eager to invest in cutting-edge technology to future-proof their companies. Retail SMEs in particular have displayed a remarkable agility in adapting to evolving consumer behaviours by adopting emerging technologies – setting the stage for a brighter year ahead.
“Small businesses are vital to the UK economy and play a key role in supporting employment, so the employee growth projections are also really encouraging for both business stability and economic prosperity.”