By Daniel Hunter

Results from BDRC Continental’s new Business Horizons study hint at 'green shoots' and growing levels of business optimism in UK business.

Running each month from March 2013, the survey segments 500 companies into four groups based on their own assessment of how the economy has affected them:

- Forging ahead: Companies that have emerged stronger from the economic downturn.
- Progressing steadily: Companies that have been resilient in the face of challenging trading conditions.
- Coping cautiously: Those who are planning their business activities very carefully in the current climate.
- Hard hit: They have had to make difficult business decisions to stay solvent.

The results for March to May showed relatively low levels of companies (8% to 13%) describing themselves as “forging ahead”. But in June this figure jumped eight percentage points to 21% — or one in five of businesses — with firms appearing to have moved up from the “progressing steadily” category (43% in May, 34% in June).

This improvement was evident across different company sizes, but most notably for sole traders, as well as businesses in the Midlands and those in the service sector.

Looking ahead, the survey asked about current levels of economic optimism/pessimism and future business activity over the next year. The results for Q2 2013 showed more than four times as many businesses are feeling both more optimistic and predicting an increase in activity (26%) than those feeling more pessimistic and predicting a decline in activity (6%).

Businesses “forging ahead” were the most optimistic about the general economy and their trading prospects, while those “hard hit”, found it difficult to shrug off pessimism

“This new research reveals how businesses are feeling about their performance and the economy in general. Our results are in line with other reports of ‘green shoots’ and increased optimism," Shiona Davies, Director at BDRC Continental, says:

"While this survey only covers the recent period of March through June, there are clear signs of an improved business mood and confidence, especially among younger businesses with a digital presence and an international outlook.”

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