A report commissioned by BT Business as part of Small Business Week reveals the extreme diversity of fortunes amongst small and medium businesses across the UK.
Northern Ireland topped the list as the region demonstrating the highest level of regeneration at 84 per cent closely followed by the North East and London with 74 per cent each.
The BT Business Regeneration Report studied the changing habits of businesses across the UK over ten years and revealed a national decline in industries such as motor sales, manufacturing, retail, agriculture and mining. However, industries including construction, hotel and catering, post and telecommunications enterprises and education services are thriving across the UK.
A complementary survey was also conducted to support the report in which 78 per cent of small businesses agreed that technological advancements had boosted industry in their area. Advances such as high-speed broadband and the application of e-commerce solutions have meant that small businesses can operate and compete successfully with peers or larger counterparts regardless of their own size or location.
The web has made small businesses look like big businesses to consumers. Technology has meant that small businesses can have a “virtual presence” – meaning that they can have a “local” appeal irrespective of where they are based.
On a regional basis the report stated that the largest industry increase is in telecommunications businesses, mainly through the rise of the call-centre and online enterprises, with the following areas seeing an increase South West (138 per cent increase), South East (83 per cent), West Midlands (160 per cent), East Midlands (160 per cent), East Anglia (101 per cent), Wales (121 per cent), North West (159 per cent), Scotland (103 per cent).
The West Midlands and North East have seen an increase in education services (91 per cent and 127 per cent respectively) whilst the East Midlands is a hotspot for Property and Business Enterprises with a 60 per cent increase, and Northern Ireland has seen a 50 per cent growth in construction enterprises.
To support the report a survey was conducted which looked at the attitudes and opinions of SMEs. For example, 84 per cent of small businesses in Northern Ireland felt their region was an area of ongoing business regeneration. While 21 per cent of businesses in Wales consider themselves to be unique, compared to a national figure of six per cent.
Businesses in the North West and East Anglia felt they have a great future (34 per cent, 33 per cent) and businesses in the North East (30 per cent), London (29 per cent) and Northern Ireland (26 per cent) feel that their area attracts new and small business, complementing the report finding that these are the areas that have undergone the biggest regeneration increase.
The report also showed that companies that located themselves in areas of relative business stagnation are nonetheless thriving. This indicates the cyclical nature of business regeneration. Where there is a gradual decline of one sort of business in an area, another wave of business regeneration sets up and manages to thrive in that environment.
Bill Murphy, managing director, BT Business, said: “BT Business commissioned this report to study the changing face of UK business and it proves that UK SMEs are thriving in areas of previous industrial decline such as the North East and Wales.
“It is particularly exciting how the advancements of technology have resulted in the development of new businesses such as telecommunication industries – plus the fact that small businesses are not afraid to start up in areas of previous business stagnation.
“Technology has enabled these small businesses to effectively run from locations that previously may have been deemed a risk. BT Business is at the forefront of supporting them with free services such as BT Tradespace, which enables them to market their business online for free and BT Business Builder which gives them free software to run basic business functions like accounting and HR.”