East ‘still optimistic’ in face of double dip

EAST Anglian businesses are reporting rising levels of customers, new orders and optimism, according to a report.

The quarterly economic study from Bibby Financial Services found that despite gloomy economic news nationally and internationally, with the UK officially back in recession, a remarkable six out of 10 of the region’s business owners say they are confident about the trading year ahead.

Bibby’s Business Factors Index looks at the turnover of its 4,000 UK clients since 2007 and charts the performance from a base point of 100. The Index revealed the first quarter of 2012 was the UK’s best performing quarter, year-on-year, since the start of the economic downturn in 2007.

A separate study by Santander, which analysed economic growth in East Anglia’s small and medium enterprise sector, found that 5pc of small businesses in the region were playing an extraordinary role in boosting the economy.

It found that these so-called “growth champions” had remained robust during the recession, creating 16,681 jobs.

These 738 fast-growth firms, found across a wide spread of sectors, had a significantly higher economic impact than the rest of the region’s SMEs.

Santander’s Martyn Dawson said: “This research shows a small group of businesses in East Anglia make an extraordinary contribution to the local economy. These ‘growth champions’ demonstrate a fantastic ability to excel against the backdrop of difficult trading circumstances, delivering significant growth in both employment and net worth.”

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The Bibby report found companies were protecting themselves against the effects of downturn, with 64pc cutting overheads and costs. 69pc were managing their debt more strictly.

More than half have chosen to increase their prices, significantly higher than the national average of about a third.

Sharon Wiltshire, Bibby Financial Services spokesperson for East Anglia, said: “There is still a long way to go before we can talk about economic recovery, but business owners and managers in East Anglia should be encouraged by the findings from the Index.

“It’s clear what effect increases in new customers and more orders being placed is having on firms in the region.

While the trading environment was challenging, firms were addressing this, she said.