By Lea Pachta

According to a new Barclays survey the majority of UK businesses believe the post-recession economy will be a more competitive place than the pre-recession environment and state that going in to 2010 their number one focus is increasing demand for their products and services.

The Connecting Business survey, carried out at recent Barclays events throughout the UK, found that 58% of the 610 business leaders surveyed believe competition in their industry is set to increase post-recession, including 27% who expect their sector to be ‘much more competitive’. This compares to just 4% who believe the post-recession economy will be ‘much less competitive’ for their business.

40% of UK businesses said that increasing sales is a key priority for them in 2010, while 35% said they will be focused on taking market share. Managing cashflow is identified as a key focus for 16% of businesses.

There are also a significant proportion of UK businesses preparing for an environment where demand for their products does not reach pre-recession levels. Nearly half (46%) of business leaders believe consumer demand will not exceed pre-credit crunch levels for the foreseeable future, while more than third (37%) feel the same about business-to-business demand.

A positive finding was the number of businesses that actually reported an increase in innovation. More than two thirds of UK businesses claim that during the recession innovation had either continued as normal (37%) or that the pace of innovation had actually increased (31%).

Ian Stuart, Managing Director at Barclays Corporate, said “Innovation today means exploiting healthy economic growth rates abroad while developing an offering able to thrive despite depressed demand at home. With confidence returning and growth back on the agenda, 2010 should see UK businesses competing aggressively for market share once more.”

Businesses have little trust in external figures and economic forecasting, with more than half (52%) of respondents pointing to a simple increase in demand for their products as primary evidence of recovery, compared with just 12% focusing on GDP figures and 2% using Government assurances as their primary guide.

Other survey findings include:
• Over one quarter (28%) believe the Technology, Media and Telecoms sector is best prepared for a post-recession economy, followed by the Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical and Healthcare sector at 19%.
• Almost one third (32%) of respondents believed the government should continue with lending support schemes in order to support UK businesses post-recession.
• 24% of respondents are currently hiring new staff, or plan to do so early this year, while another 46% expect to hire widely again in late 2010/early 2011.

The research was conducted as part of the Barclays Turning the Corner initiative which combines web tools, practical guidance, workshops, industry discussions and networking events to offer business owners and managers specific skills and knowledge that will help them in meeting the unique challenges, and identifying potential opportunities, the recession and recovery present.

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