South East Small Business Index indicates a growing but still fragile economic recovery

  • 01 Sep 2021

There are signs that the long awaited recovery ‘bounce back’ is taking place

With lockdown restrictions removed and the economy opening up across Surrey, Sussex and Kent, there are signs that the long awaited recovery ‘bounce back’ is taking place.

There is a 6% rise in business confidence across the south east compared with the first three months of 2021, up to 27%. Furthermore, profits over the last three months are in positive territory and predicted to be on the uptick over the next quarter.

Over half (56%) of businesses indicate an intention to grow their business and there is a 13% drop, year on year, for firms saying they will downsize, sell or close. Figures in the small business index indicate a steady picture for investment intentions and staff numbers too, with 67% of firms indicating these will stay the same.


However, current areas for concern in the economy, relate to inflationary pressure and volatility in the labour market. The full UK SBI report indicates that close to two thirds of the 1,500 firms surveyed (64%) said their operating costs have risen over the past year.

Four in ten (43%) cite inputs such as raw materials and 36%, labour costs. In the south east, wage growth is on the rise, with 47% of firms increasing salaries, 37% of whom indicate a rise of 2% or more. In terms of barriers to growth, 33% of south east firms say finding appropriately skilled staff is a problem, a little short of the 37% UK average.

South East Regional Policy Chair, Deborah Turner commented: “The south east Small Business Index indicates a mixed picture of a fragile recovery that needs key stakeholders, such as MPs, Councils, Universities and Colleges, to collaborate and support their local economy over the critical period ahead.

Small businesses are doing their bit: showing optimism, resilience and adaptability and it is good to see so many schemes, funded by our Local Enterprise Partnerships and Councils, offering training, mentoring and peer support. Keeping business costs down and incentivising consumer spending, must be central to recovery at this time.”

Read the full report here