Monday 6 June 2016 10:00 am

SMEs have a gloomy view of the economy, as uncertainty over the upcoming EU referendum vote and higher wage bills take their toll

The summer weather has done little to boost SME owners' moods, with research out today showing that many have lost confidence in the economy.

According to the study by Close Brothers, only one in five SMEs said they were confident that the economy could deliver a steady recovery, while more than a quarter said they were worried the economy would tumble back into decline. 

Meanwhile, a third (31 per cent) said that, although they were feeling optimistic that the worst was behind them, they still thought the path to recovery would be a slow one.

Only a fifth expected to see their business grow over the course of the next year, while one in 10 remarked that they wouldn't be too surprised if they saw their business contract, or even shut down entirely. Furthermore, more than half (52 per cent) of those surveyed said their business had not grown at all over the last 12 months. 

Read more: Here is how banks can better compete for, and profit from, SME business

When asked why they felt so down in the dumps, those surveyed cited the uncertainty caused by the upcoming EU referendum vote, the state of the global economy more generally and increased costs from the recently introduced National Living Wage and pensions auto-enrolment.

"Our latest Business Barometer paints a worrying picture of the fragile state of confidence amongst the UK's SMEs today,” remarked David Thomson, chief executive of Close Brothers Invoice Finance. "After the financial crisis of 2008, we saw similar low levels of confidence in SMEs.

"We found it was the businesses that explored every possible funding option and ensured their enterprises were constructed on firm financial foundations that were able to ride out the uncertainty and continue working towards their growth ambitions."

Read more: Super-SMEs created more jobs than the FTSE 100 last year

A separate piece of research out today by Norton Folgate discovered that, like many people trying to turn a frown upside down, SMEs may well be embarking on a spending spree over the course of the next year in a bid to invest in their working assets.

The Norton Folgate research discovered that the 39 per cent of SMEs who planned to splash out on new IT equipment would spend an average of £5,290, while the 18 per cent who foresaw themselves forking out on some new sets of wheels would spend an average of £14,496.

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