By Marcus Leach

One in ten small business owners can’t afford a Christmas stocking this year, according to a survey of Christmas wishes by XLN Business Services.

“Our survey shows many small UK business owners are looking forward to a miserable Christmas and New Year,” said Christian Nellemann, founder and CEO of XLN.

“Businesses are still struggling with increased prices and poor credit conditions. A slight uptick in performance over the last six months may mean there is light at the end of the tunnel, but the UK Government needs to stop acting like Ebenezer Scrooge and give businesses what they need — a stable economy, less red tape and VAT relief for the smallest businesses.”

One small business owner affected by the harsh conditions is Catherine Longton, proprietor of Moorland Books, a bookshop in Oldham.

“It has been daunting to set up a small business at this current difficult time, “ said Ms Longton. “It has affected some of my business decisions, being more cautious about outlay and trying to keep costs down where possible. I have been fortunate in that I have not had to borrow from the bank as it may have been difficult. My main worry is about next year and whether it can be sustained with the pessimistic forecasts in the media.”

In the same survey, thirty-four percent of small business owners said would like Santa to bring them £200 in cash this year, while another twenty six percent said that they would like an iPad 2.

The first part of the XLN survey looked back over the last 6 months and asked SMEs to rate factors surveyed affecting their business such as number of customers, price inflation, profits and more out of a maximum 10 marks, with a high score being favourable. The combined average response this time was 4.54/10, compared with an average of 4.45/10 in the previous survey. This means businesses are slightly more positive about their actual performance than they were last time. In particular there was a marked improvement in the score for total overall value of business sales from 4.98 to 5.17, meaning that small business owners believe price pressures seem to have eased slightly.

A second part of the survey looks forward over the next six months and measures how positive businesses are about the same factors, but as they expect them to be in the future. The overall score for this forward looking measure has risen from 4.26/10 last time to 4.30, meaning small businesses are now more optimistic about their prospects than they were three months ago. In particular, the number of customers they are expecting to visit their businesses has increased from 4.66 to 4.80, meaning business owners feel more confident despite wall to wall negative media coverage on the economy over the last few months.

Finally, the survey also asked about the current government’s performance with regard to small business issues. Business owners rated the government with regard to new regulations for small businesses an average of 3.42/10. The government was also hit by criticism of taxation of small business, with owners rating them a poor 2.55/10 on this measure.

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