By Daniel Hunter

Although they failed to foresee the wettest summer on record, small business owners across the UK still believe the predictions of weathermen more than those of politicians, according to a survey by XLN Business Services, the small business specialist.

The Met Office predicted drier than normal conditions over the summer and meteorologists advised water companies to put hosepipe bans in place. Since then the UK has had record rainfall and flooding, with June being the wettest since records began in 1910. But small business owners accuse the government and politicians in general of being even worse at crystal ball gazing. In recent months politicians have been caught out by a host of issues including the economic crisis, banking scandals and u-turns over budget measures.

When asked “Rate the following in terms of how good they are at predicting the future”, the majority of responses from small business owners said weathermen were the best at predictions, followed closely by sports pundits and journalists. Fortune tellers, astrologers and politicians were rated worst.

“Weathermen predicted a summer of droughts and we got floods. Amazingly, small business owners think politicians are even worse at predicting the future,” said Christian Nellemann, CEO of XLN Business Services. “But of course they’re right. Politicians completely failed to see the economic crisis coming and they never imagined the banks would rig LIBOR right under their noses. The only question is: can they predict how many more small business owners will suffer if they don’t get their act together quickly?”

This question was part of XLN’s Q2 2012 Small Business Opinion Survey. The survey polled 700 small business owners for their opinions on current issues, factors affecting their business and forecasts for the future. For example, business owners rated the number of customers which have visited their business an average 2.92/5 compared to 2.51/5 last quarter. This shows an increase in customers visiting small businesses compared with last quarter’s survey, as people flocked to high streets for goods and services to help celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This national bank holiday hugely boosted retail and food sales as consumers over the bank holiday bought clothing as well as enjoying days out, street parties and barbecues. The British Retail Consortium recently reported a similar figure as UK retail sales for larger stores also went up 1.4% compared to this time last year thanks to demand for party food, bunting and clothes.

Overall, small business sentiment for the last 6 months has finally turned a corner into positive territory with business owners rating all factors affecting their business an average 2.85/5, compared to last quarter’s survey which averaged 2.25/5. A variety of factors could be the cause of this rise, including high morale in the months around the Diamond Jubilee. This uptick in performance shows business owners are thriving, even as they deal with an undercurrent of press negativity surrounding the Eurozone crash and the Libor banking scandal.

When asked to look forward over the next 6 months, business owners were increasingly optimistic, rating their overall estimate of future of sales as 2.97/5 compared to 2.53 last quarter. The overall picture for the next 6 months also showed increased buoyancy, with all factors affecting their business being rated a low average of 2.83/5, much higher compared to last quarter’s survey at 2.19/5 as entrepreneurs worried about the impact of the euro crisis on consumer spending. Both of these figures show improved optimism, most likely due to this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics which could bring busy sales periods to many UK businesses as hundreds of thousands of tourists head to East London.

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