Businesses in the West Midlands are feeling more confident about their own business prospects month-on-month, a new survey has revealed.
According to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, business confidence in the West Midlands rose eight points during September.
This is despite the majority of the 1,200 surveyed businesses reporting that they continue to be negatively affected by coronavirus with 65 per cent experiencing a fall in demand for their products and services – up from the previous month. Only 11 per cent reported an increase in demand.
The survey also revealed that one-third (32 per cent) of West Midlands firms surveyed said they aren’t currently using the Job Retention Scheme.
Promisingly, firms outlined plans to increase the size of their workforces for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March.
A net balance of one per cent of firms expect to grow their employee base in the next 12 months, compared to August, when a net balance of nine per cent had expected to reduce headcounts.
When asked about the impact of social distancing measures, 61 per cent of businesses said they could, in theory, operate at full capacity while remaining covid-secure – although 26 per cent said they couldn’t operate fully within the rules.
Of the 42 per cent of businesses reporting disruption to their supply chain during September, 53 per cent expect the situation to improve within six months, while seven per cent expect it will take more than 12 months to return to normal levels.
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Amanda Dorel, regional director for the West Midlands at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The introduction of local lockdown measures in Birmingham and surrounding areas, introduced mid-September, will affect demand dynamics for local firms.
“But so far, the new restrictions haven’t dampened expectations for business activity, which climbed steeply during September. Next month’s figures will reveal the toll that the Government’s new national restrictions have taken on firms.
“We’ll remain by the side of businesses affected by lockdown measures and will support firms as they look to overcome challenges in the weeks and months ahead.”